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Professional work placements are absolutely central to the BU ethos. While some of our courses include mandatory placements, others are optional.  Placement opportunities are exciting and offer students ‘real’ work experience gained within ‘real’ working environments, but as Alice Eastoe reveals in her guest blog, the perfect placement can sometimes be hard to find and expectations don’t always match up to reality…

When I started my placement year, I decided that I wanted to get some experience in PR (I study BSc (Hons) English), so the first internship I found was at one of the largest beauty PR companies in London. This opportunity however was unpaid, as I was finding it extremely difficult to find any paid internships. The internship taught me a lot of resilience and patience as I was often responsible for essential tasks such as filling up hundreds of mailers and gift bags. This was not the most exciting task, so the main challenge I faced was staying motivated, but what kept me going was the opportunities I got; writing press releases. I learnt a lot from this internship; mainly that internships will be hard work and not exciting all the time, but it is essential to keep going if you want to learn anything from it.

My second internship (yes you don’t necessarily have to stay with the same placement for the entire year) was at a food and luxury lifestyle PR company. This was a much smaller company, so I was able to get more hands-on experience, writing blogs and doing research for the team. I also helped on a photoshoot for one of their brands, choosing which shots we needed for their social media which was fun. I enjoyed getting stuck into any task they gave me, but I was starting to realise that PR wasn’t what I was interested in doing after all, so as the internship came to an end I looked at what other work placements I could do instead.

My third internship was at a talent agency, which was very different to what I had been doing before, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to try something new. I found it challenging at first and I had to learn very quickly because it was such a fast-paced environment, but I also found it very rewarding especially when I saw the results of a shoot that I helped to organise or when I overcame problems on my own. My main responsibilities were organising upcoming shoots by communicating with clients and talent as well as outreach to new clients where I had a lot of success. It was essential to keep calm when problems arose even when it was busy, and this is a skill I got better at throughout my time there. I stayed at the agency for 7 months and thoroughly enjoyed my experience as I really felt like I was part of the team and that my help was valued.

At the end of June, I attended the Student Leadership Summit in Cape Town, South Africa for a week, where there was only one other student from the UK in attendance. This was an amazing experience which developed my leadership skills and allowed me to meet people from all over the world.

Once back in the UK, having the time to reflect on everything, I was keen on getting even more experience. You see the benefit of placements not quite working out is that you know what you don’t want to do, which is just as helpful as knowing what you do want to do. So I reached out to a healthcare business and took over their social media accounts and started a blog for them. I found that this worked well to attract new clients and it improved their online presence as well as enabling me to improve my writing skills.

The advice I would give to students looking for placements now is to not be disheartened if you don’t immediately find your placement. As my experience shows, sometimes you need to compromise but keep going because it will get better. You may also end up doing something different to what you thought, like I did, but ultimately any experience is beneficial- and who knows, you may end up loving it!

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