Hi! I’m Alex, and I’m 11 months into my placement at Tata Steel in Shotton. It’s been a lovely learning experience, with both ups and downs, which I’m really grateful for. I would definitely recommend taking on a placement, especially if you’re unsure about what you want to do in the future. You get to test-drive a job in a low-pressure, high-support environment and I can almost guarantee you’ll do a couple of 180 turns on what you think you know or want!
Now, about starting your placement. First of all, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, confused, or even lost. If you’re like me you might try going after every bit of information out there, perhaps try to improve ALL of your professional skills at once, but that only leads to burnout. Instead, give yourself the space you need to acclimatize to a completely new environment. Check in with yourself often and remind yourself that first of all, you’re here to learn! It might take a couple (or a lot) of tries to get it right, but that’s fine!
Since we’re on the topic of learning, I’d say it’s worth taking some time to reflect on what skills you’d like to improve on. What’s something that always holds you back? Do deadlines intimidate you too much? Or would you like to be able to concentrate better? Pick one thing, and look up a youtube video or two. I’d recommend only focusing on one thing at a time until you see some improvement, but if you’re brave, multitasking isn’t out of the question.
Clarity is important. Talk with your line manager and make sure you’re clear on what your tasks are and what expectations there are. Lack of clarity often leads to unnecessary stress or redundant efforts. I remember freaking out and trying to cover as much ground as possible doing requirements elicitation ahead of a training session on a new system, believing we needed all potential use cases documented, and finding out it was actually just a session to teach us the basics, no preparation needed.
My last tip is: plan ahead! I also like going with the flow, but for every minute spent planning, you save 10 or more minutes of work! And it’s so much clearer where you’re going. All it takes is opening a notepad and spending 5-10 minutes thinking about the task: what do you need, what are the specific steps you’ll need to take, etc.
And for all of my fellow perfectionists out there: failure is part of the process!