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From University to the Working World!

By Max Hawksworth on Mon 25 January 2021 in Placement Blog

Hear from our amazing Customer Success Placement, Max, to find out what it's like to be part of our dynamic Customer Success team!

Hi there! My name’s Max and I study International Business and Management at the University of Reading. I chose to undertake a year in industry to enhance my career prospects, establish industry connections, and most importantly - get a taste of the real working world!

Whilst my University experience so far has given me a great foundation of theoretical knowledge, I was excited to build on this and put everything into practice by taking a placement. Plus, I was keen to learn new technical skills that I haven’t been exposed to during my studies, so getting a placement felt like the perfect opportunity to help me make this a reality!

Over the New Year, I took some time to reflect on the first few months of my placement as a Customer Success Assistant, and what I’ve learned from my first taste of the working world, in what everyone would agree is a truly unprecedented time for businesses. In this short time, I’ve already picked up so many invaluable skills that will undoubtedly benefit me in my final year of University and into my future career. 

When applying for my degree, I was pleased to find one of my modules related to managing information systems, as I was becoming more and more aware of the growing importance of technology in business processes. After a challenging yet rewarding year studying this module, I decided that I wanted to pursue industry experience in a role that would expand my understanding of business technology, presenting me with the opportunity to learn skills that would ultimately enhance my employability and make me a more competent graduate. 

So, when I spotted the Customer Success placement at ProspectSoft on the RMP website, I knew instantly that this was the opportunity that I’d been searching for - I didn’t need to look any further! Working for an SME (and especially a multi-award-winning one like ProspectSoft!) means that I’m seen as a valued member of the team, where what I work on actually has an impact on the business - something that’s pretty unheard of, especially amongst SMEs! This companywide approach is really motivating, as I know that my performance directly affects not just my department, but the overall success of the business. 

This role has also hugely developed my technical skills, such as writing bulk update scripts in SQL and manipulating data for analysis in Microsoft Power BI - things which I’d never have expected to learn, but am so glad I have! Learning these technical skills has proved to be challenging yet extremely rewarding, as I’ve gained knowledge on things that previously seemed inaccessible and quite intimidating to say the least! Account managing customers has also helped me develop my soft skills, as I’ve been exposed to a diverse set of customer requirements where I’ve needed to hone my communication skills.

But it’s not just learning and practicing technical skills that I’ve enjoyed...working as part of a team has been great too! Our department focuses on achieving a collective set of “sprint” objectives - another new concept to me! Despite being used to working in teams through team sports and in my previous part-time jobs, this is my first proper experience of working within a team in a corporate environment. And it’s safe to say - I’ve loved it! Especially as the whole ProspectSoft team give us placements respect, responsibility, and support.

Whilst I feel I’ve made a positive start to my placement year, there’s one thing I wish I’d known before I got into the role. Contrary to popular belief, asking for help if you are stuck is actually OK. Of course, be proactive and do some digging to find out the answer before if you can. For example, lots of my questions were easily answered by me referring to the Prospect Academy – a hub of info for our customers to learn the ins and outs of our software. But, if you really are stuck, it’s always best to just ask. Trust me – it's a much better way to learn so you know the answer for future reference, rather than not knowing and being less productive or producing work that’s of a lower standard as a result.

When talking to the other placements to see how they’ve found their placement experience so far, it’s pretty clear that almost all of us have (at least at some point) experienced ‘Imposter Syndrome’. This is a psychological pattern in which someone questions their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent, internalised fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Entering the working world for the first time can be a daunting experience to say the least. You’re being exposed to lots of new information and being asked to learn new skills in a relatively short space of time. So, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and feel like you’re slightly out of your depth, especially when you’re surrounded by people who have been in the job for years! It’s important to remember that it’s normal - most people feel this way when they start a new job, even if they don’t show it on the surface.

Whilst there may be a steep learning curve at the start, hard work and taking a proactive approach to learning will help you get to grips with your role as quickly as possible. I’d recommend that anyone who wants to make themselves more employable by gaining new skills and experience definitely undertakes a placement year! 

Because of this experience, I know I’ll return for my final year of University as a better undergraduate. Until then, I look forward to completing the remainder of my placement experience and taking advantage of any opportunities along the way!


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