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Diary of an Intern – 3 Top Tips to Making the Most of Your Placement

It was the end of my second year at Lancaster University when I found myself in a predicament. I had two offers for a 12 month industrial placement. Fantastic, you may think… However, the choice between playing it safe and pushing myself far out of my comfort zone to a management consultancy role I knew little about wasn’t an obvious one at first. I eventually made the gutsier and much riskier decision that makes iconic business professionals so notorious, and off I went to the Big Smoke… London bound and armed with nothing more than a brain bursting with text book theory and knowledge of other people’s accomplishments that I’d so rigorously revised that summer, I set sail on my maiden voyage as a ‘young professional’.

As a management consultant (albeit very much a junior) I was required to work for huge clients, often at the clients’ head office – wherever that may be. Other interns were sent up and down the country but luckily I managed to remain in central London for the duration of my placement, working for a huge fashion retail client and an international broadcaster. From the comfort of my sexy metropolis, the first few weeks felt rather surreal and Sex-in-the-City-esque strutting round the city of London in patent heels and pencil skirts – a far cry from the leggings and converse dress code of university campus.

Not only are placement graduates three times more likely to get a job directly after graduating but I gained invaluable life and business experience that simply cannot be taught in a lecture theatre. At times it was hard work and challenging, but being given real responsibility, deadlines to meet and clients to satisfy was exhilarating. I met extraordinary people that frankly I wouldn’t have encountered in the bubble of university campus surrounded by like-minded and students similar to myself.

I had the time of my life, and if you get the opportunity to do a placement, drop the text books immediately and grab it with both hands!

My three most useful lessons from my year on placement:

  1. Network – I personally couldn’t agree more with the famous saying goes ‘it’s not always what you know, but who you know’. Every single person you meet on your placement, from the more obvious managers and (if you’re lucky) C-suite executives to the less obvious people such as receptionists, canteen staff and fellow interns are potential sources of knowledge, resources and links to further useful sources. You may have been encouraged to network time and time again, and it is true that it comes more naturally to some than others, but trust me, with a little practice it becomes much easier. I met some incredible and inspiring people on my year in industry (their success too can be attributed to help from their extensive network of people) and I never know when I may need to call upon one of them for a little favour…
  1. Elevator Pitch – misleadingly, I do not mean a literal and well-rehearsed monologue you eloquently recite every time you jump into a lift, but instead at least some idea in your head of how you’d want someone important to remember you after a brief encounter. Perhaps your greatest achievement, something personal and unforgettable about yourself and importantly, an idea of where you want to be heading in the future. You never know: that person may just be your fast-track ticket to your dream job! If only they find you inspiring enough to leave you with their business card…
  1. Don’t answer the question: ‘what do you want to do when you grow up?’ If, like me, this question has the ability to turn your stomach to lead, make your heart sink a little and turn your once fluffy mood into an over-thinking and unfulfilled version of your former self, then please remember this chunk of life-guidance gold my senior manger told me on placement…

‘Some of the happiest, most interesting and extremely successful people I have ever met didn’t know the answer to this question and in reality they still don’t know the answer…’

So, instead of focusing on trying to provide a satisfying answer to the holy grail of life’s questions, I now focus on making the right decision for me and my happiness at that time and everything else just seems to fall into place… 

Fashion, Dance, Fitness, Food & Travel Aspiring digital marketing consultant...https://twitter.com/lauramaydawsonInstagram: lauramaydawson 
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