I am now nearly three-quarters of the way through my year in industry placement with the Uplands Research Team at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. It has been a wonderful experience so far; I have learnt a lot about working in a research environment and developed plenty of useful skills.
Throughout the placement I have learned lots of new practical skills necessary for my job. Some of these are very specialised and so may not be of major benefit, in the near future at least. However many, such as using GIS software and following standard survey protocols, are valuable additions to my skill set. One that I am particularly proud of, whilst not directly linked to science, is the increase in my driving ability. Before my placement I had only been driving a few months on familiar roads, but am now driving on and off road in unknown places and in a variety of vehicles. This is something I would never have had the opportunity to do at university and will differentiate me from many other job applicants when I graduate, as well as giving me the confidence to apply to roles which I may not have done otherwise.
Personal Strengths and Attributes
Alongside the technical aspects of my work, I have developed many professional skills during my placement. I have coordinated working on multiple tasks simultaneously, taking into the account the rather unpredictable weather of the Pennines, and this has really improved my time management and organisational skills. I have also realised the importance of good communication when working in a team.
However, I have made by far the biggest progress in my confidence. I now have much more trust in my own work and feel comfortable contributing my own suggestions for the first time. I feel this underlies many of the other skills I have developed – having more confidence allows me to communicate more effectively, work independently and take on responsibility. It was my lack of confidence that motivated me to do a year in industry and it has certainly shown itself to be worthwhile; I would highly recommend doing a placement to anyone who is concerned about being ready for the workplace when they graduate.
Having completed York Strengths in first year, I had an idea of what strengths I needed to work on and those that I was good at. However, applying them in a research environment has built on all of them. By highlighting those that I enjoy and showing me which I need to work on, even if I do not enjoy them, to become a more well-rounded scientist, the placement has definitely helped to show me what I should focus on in the future. I now also feel more prepared for explaining my strengths in job interviews because I better understand how they enable me to be a good worker and team member.
My Placement Project – the Golden Opportunity
Last month, I began work on my project and it has definitely been the best opportunity I have had to gain and develop skills. My first task, writing a research proposal, allowed me to improve my writing skills and experimental design knowledge. Using previous papers published by the team and my own research, I developed an idea which I then presented at a team meeting. After several rounds of feedback and multiple drafts, my final plan was very different to that which I started with. Some of the changes were necessary to make the project align with the rest of the team’s work. Whilst working on my project I have continually experienced the importance of flexibility when working in a research team, and I have become much more adaptable because of it.
My work is not yet complete however, and the next three months will present new opportunities for development. Analysis of my project data alongside the start of the invertebrate sampling period will build further on my technical skills, whilst balancing all my responsibilities will challenge my ability to prioritise. I am really looking forward to all the field and office-based tasks I have coming up over the rest of my placement though. And, who knows, I may even be able swap my thermals for a sunhat soon!
Without a doubt, the unique opportunities provided by my placement have been the most valuable benefit of the experience because, through them, my strengths and my skills have developed in a way that will really help while completing my degree course and beginning my scientific career. As well as being enormous fun, of course.