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Why I believe a placement year is worthwhile

Unlike some universities, my university (University of Lincoln) offers students on the Public Relations (PR) course the opportunity to do a paid placement year as part of their degree, also known as a 'Sandwich Degree'.

Completing a placement year was something I always had in mind, but I was never sure where I wanted to do it, what industry to do it in or whether I would be able to successfully find a placement at all. After many discussions with my parents, friends and lecturers, I decided to pursue an industry which I always passionately followed and knew much about - the automotive industry.

I initially began my search for a placement just after commencing the second year of my degree, with the tremendous backing and support of those close to me. However, I was fairly unlucky when it came to the application process with many brands; either failing the aptitude tests at the first hurdle, or simply not making the shortlist at all. There were many times I wanted to give up and call it a day, but I don't think I would have forgiven myself.

In Summer 2017, after a series of interviews and tests, I was offered the position of Communications Intern at Bentley Motors. After an extremely successful nine months at Bentley, I worked a further two months at an automotive PR agency in London, called Influence Associates.

For me, a placement year was incredibly beneficial, not just to my career, but also my studies:

  • I was able to establish a wide network of contacts in the industry, from PR experts, to journalists and photographers, which I can use in my future career.

  • I collected data and interviews for my dissertation, that I would not have been able to attain otherwise.

  • I was able to save money, which meant I didn't have to work my part-time job at university in my third year - giving me more time to study and do things that made me happy.

  • I learned and gained invaluable information and advice that I would not have been taught in a lecture or seminar.

  • I have also received multiple job offers from companies, before I've even graduated.

Despite the many positives, there were some challenges I encountered on my placement year. Moving to somewhere unknown was a big challenge personally, as well as not knowing anyone. I even found returning to university a challenge in many ways, as all of my old friends had graduated, and I felt like I had just started university again. It felt I had taken one step forward and two steps back.

I can see why many people on my course choose not to do a placement year, especially if they aren't sure what industry they'd like to work in, or even if they don't want to work in PR. However, for me it was the right decision, and something I have absolutely no regrets about doing - I wholeheartedly encourage anyone contemplating taking one, to do one.

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