By James McDougall on Fri 28 April 2023 in Placement Blog
While embarking on a placement year is an exciting prospect, the transition from university life to the working world can be overwhelming. In this blog, we've compiled a few ways to keep on top of your work whilst maintaining a healthy mindset, because taking care of your personal wellbeing takes priority.
During my placement, I’ve sometimes found myself encountering tasks where I feel completely stuck and, when you’re stuck on something and make little to no progress, it can really get to you.
My first port of call is usually my university mentor – if I have any small problems, I can come to him and we can talk things through together. Usually he’s pretty good at coming up with a solution, and sometimes even gets me thinking and realizing that I do actually know how to solve something. If things are a bit heavier, I might talk to a senior developer, or someone higher up. Knowing there are a lot of people who have a lot of experience is very comforting to know, especially when I can go to any one of them and ask for help.
On other occasions, I’ve spoken to my line manager for things. Placements can be tricky, they’re a whole new experience and being away from home in a foreign environment, potentially with a whole bunch of strangers you’ve never met before, can be really daunting. Talking to my line manager, however, made me realize it’s actually pretty common for me to feel this way. Again, knowing I have that support is really helpful.
One big challenge I faced was expectations. When you’re immersed into a team full of talented people who’ve been there years before you, it’s easy to feel in over your head; completely out of your depth. To be honest, that feeling hasn’t completely gone away yet – but, as a placement, this is a feeling I expected. I’m here to gain knowledge and experience, and I’m expected to ask lots of questions. I’m not expected to match up to the developers who essentially wrote the whole system from scratch!
I think whilst on placement it’s really important to maintain a good work/personal life balance. Sometimes you might really get into a project you’re working on and want to continue it after work, or during your break – but do take those breaks! I’ve been very strict with myself to take the evenings to myself so I can relax and wind down from work, rather than continuing it on. I’m not saying doing extra work is a bad thing, but that you should be mindful of your health and mental state first!
I know that I also feel a good amount of pressure when working on some things. Often tasks will have deadlines, and they can be quite frightening, especially when you feel you’re going slower than you’d like to. In these cases though, it really is important to take breaks and pace yourself. Sometimes taking a small break can help give you a different perspective (and therefore a different solution) to the problem you’re facing. Just five minutes or so away from your work to stand up and walk around (and not use your computer or phone for other things!) can really be beneficial.
One more thing – make sure you get a lot of sleep. Work is surprisingly tiresome, and I found myself oversleeping at the start, which is something you definitely want to avoid. Get to bed a little earlier and you’ll thank yourself in the morning when you’re in better spirits to start the day. Maybe if you wake up early, try getting up early too. It’s no different to have an hour extra in the evening but you won’t be as tired, and you might find having that extra hour at the start really helps energize you and may make you more productive!
Working for an SME is like being part of a family and you develop a great support system along the way. While all of our roles offer you real responsibility, you'll never face a challenge alone and there'll always be someone on hand to offer support when it's needed.