I am a MSci Natural Sciences student who specialises in Physics (I did the Chemistry, Maths, and Physics (CMP) pathway for those interested). I am almost 3 months into my placement as a ‘Science Communication’ student at one of the Science and Technology Facilities Council‘s national laboratories in Oxfordshire. As part of my job, I undertake many different roles related to internal and external communications, both physically and digitally. I support events on-site, public engagement activities, give site tours, and help manage our website and social media account, just to list a few. My favourite job so far is getting to write articles about the science research that takes place where I work, especially when I get to talk to the researchers and see how passionate they are about what they do.
Why did I want to do a placement?
Lots of people I know, myself included, have constantly been asked the question “what do you want to do when you graduate?”. For me, this question resulted in a vague mumbled answer and a lot of self-reflection during my time at university. What do I want to do with my life after getting my degree? I decided I wanted to do a placement year to help me explore the possible answers to that question.
Whenever I think about the future, my career and job are always at the forefront of my mind. I want to do something that brings me joy and is consistently engaging and exciting. Linking together my biggest passions (science, STEM accessibility, and education) the Careers Team at York helped point me towards the wonderful field of ‘science communication’, something I knew very little about at the time.
After a handful of very helpful careers sessions and lots of Google searching, I found my current placement – a 12-month science communication role at one of the UK’s national laboratories. It sounded amazing, and so far, it has been just that! I am constantly being given new and exciting projects to work on, both alone and collaboratively. This placement so far has been the best additional experience I could have done while at university. I am gaining valuable skills and experiences for my graduate career, and I’m loving every day of it!
How did I find the ‘right’ placement for me?
The words “‘right’ placement” definitely sounds cliché, but they aptly describe how I feel. I am very grateful for all the hard work and time I spent researching placements over the summer. For me, finding the ‘right’ placement meant analysing what I really enjoyed, what skills I needed to pursue that career, and finding a placement that would help me gain those skills while doing something I knew I was very interested in exploring.
I want to share some of the things I did that I found the most helpful in my search, and I hope they aid your journey in finding the ‘right’ placement for you!
My tips for finding the ‘right’ placement
Firstly, talk to your pastoral supervisor, department placement year contact (if your department has one), and the Careers Team at York to find out how they can support your placement search. All of these groups gave me invaluable support and guidance on career searching and placement hunting.
Secondly, research what non-placement jobs and career paths really interest you. If you don’t know where to start with this, definitely reach out to the Careers Team to discuss what post-university career options are out there. Personally, I looked at:
- A mixture of entry and non-entry level jobs in the area I was considering
- LinkedIn profiles of people doing jobs that made me think “wow I want to do that!”
When doing this research, I considered many things. Here’s a rough summary:
- What skills are the job descriptions asking for?
- Are there specific qualifications the vast majority require? For example, a valid driving licence, a teaching qualification, proficiency in a programming language, etc.
- What have I already done to fulfil these criteria and show these skills?
- For the criteria and skills I cannot already demonstrate, what are some ways I could obtain experience? (For me, the answer to this was doing my current placement)
- For people that are doing (or have done) jobs I find really interested, where did they work and what were their job titles? (Knowing the names of jobs with descriptions that intrigue you can help you know what keywords to search for in placement titles!)
- Can I reach out to these people and ask if we could have a chat about their career journey to assist my own?
I hope knowing about my placement journey and reading these tips help you on your placement search. Good luck!