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This is a guest blog post by current student Liam Richards, studying BA (Hons) Politics. 

My name is Liam Richards, I am a BA (Hons) Politics student at BU and have undertaken a sandwich placement for my degree. I went to a couple of assessment centres but something was not quite right about the places I applied for. BU suggested doing your own research as well as looking on placement job sites, instead of focusing on big-name companies I thought I’d do my own research into local charities since it was something I have enjoyed in the past. After emailing the ones that I was interested in, I heard back from the Hertfordshire Mind Network. They are a local mental health charity which offers a variety of services and groups for its clients, working with the council as well as providing training for businesses. I asked if I would be able to help with their marketing team which turned out to be what they were looking for. I decided to research their social media channels so noticed there was room for improvement and brought this insight along to when I went to discuss the role. After a discussion, I decided that this would be the perfect role for me since it would give me a chance to apply my skills learnt whilst helping my local community.


My role became, Student Placement – Marketing. I have volunteered within the marketing team from September 2018-September 2019 which has involved many different projects, insights and general support for the team. I helped to design social media posts, planning potential campaigns, researching local charities/businesses and sending out packages for the RED (Run Every Day) January campaign. I was given the opportunity to interview for a volunteer coordinator role, they wanted to get the opinions from a volunteer to help them come to a decision.  I was able to attend “Spot the Signs” suicide prevention training, the skills from this course can work both in the workplace as well as in my personal life, allowing me to support friends or family that might be struggling. There was also an opportunity to help with a group meeting place for Christmas which was very rewarding, seeing the clients have fun despite all their struggles.


One of my biggest challenges on placement has been my personal health, I have had ME/CFS since 2011 but this year has seen my health reach its worst. Whilst on placement I have been seeing different doctors and specialists in the hopes of finding what else could be causing the issues (they think it is an autonomic disorder). I also chose a volunteering role as I thought they might be more flexible with my chronic illness, which they have been. They were always checking in with me and allowed me to work from home which helped to save my little energy as well as avoiding catching any bugs within the office whilst my immune system was at its weakest. By working from home I was able to work more flexibly depending on my health whilst still continuing the work that I had grew to love with HMN. 


My placement has taught me so much about myself and the charity sector as a whole. Personally, I have learnt that full-time work is probably not the best thing for me with my health at this level but there are many roles in this sector that are either part-time or allow you to work from home. Something more general that was advised to me by my Placement Development Advisor Vianna Renaud was to take every opportunity up that you can. Following this advice allowed me to complete some great training courses, being on an interview panel and learn about the different areas of the charity.


This placement has made me find a passion for charity work, I love how friendly the environment is and how much support the staff receive. It was because of this that I am going to be a student ambassador for Movember which will allow me to improve my marketing whilst raising money for a great cause. After finishing my course, I am sure that I will want to go back into charity work due to how much I have enjoyed and learnt from it.


My advice would be to not rule out voluntary roles with charities, they really value your help and will do what they can to help you develop whilst giving you a chance to make a difference. My final one is the same as the placement advisors, which is to take every opportunity at the placement to allow yourself to develop and learn new skills.

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