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How to prepare for placement

Posted: July 20 2020

Lynn, Occupational Therapy (Pre-registration) MSc

For most of us, there is a part of our academic career that we may be hopeful or fearful for - our academic or clinical placements.

Most professions nowadays include some form of placement hours to allow individuals to get real-time experience in their chosen field - whether it be in the form of several placement locations (such as in health professions), a few months in certain locations (such as anthropology or sociology), or a placement year with one affiliation (such as engineering or design). I've been through seven different placement settings now between undergraduate and postgraduate, and am preparing to start my eighth (and hopefully final) placement as a therapist. I'm here to share with you a few things that have helped me prepare for my placements.

Background knowledge - do your prior research

Chances are, you might be put into a wide variety of placement settings. Whether it's your first physical medicine placement as a clinician, your first time running electrical circuitry as an engineer, or your first time leading a marketing firm from the inner ranks, do a little bit of research into what you're getting yourself into. Not only will your team appreciate the interest and prior work, but things will make more sense to you as well. This also might involve reaching out to the company before your placement, researching their standards and values, or reading reviews from others that have worked for that company in the past

Keep an open and learning mind

Your placement is where you're expected to make mistakes - and to learn from them. Everyone has their own different way of doing their job, and by seeing how others do theirs, you can start to piece together how you want to do yours. Their experiences are there to help you develop yourself - and you might just have some fun along the way.

Keep a notebook

Identify a form of note-taking that works for you (such as a typed journal, audio recordings, mnemonics, or other tools) and stick to using it. This will help you solidify what you've taken away from your placement so far, as well as be a resource that you can use for later. There have already been several instances in which having my scrapbook and CPD profile from earlier placement settings helped to jog my memory for an assignment or treatment plan.

Know what's expected of you

Although it may seem broad, this can be a myriad of things. This can be something as simple as knowing time-off policy, learning outcomes, or dress code. Or, it could be something more intricate, such as what tasks you're expected to create and complete, or how much your role as a student placement worker supplements the objectives of the company.

Make your downtime productive

Although we live in a busy world, it is highly unlikely that you'll find yourself being jam-packed with assigned work every second of every day. As such, there may be gaps of time in which there may be relatively little to do (both inside of work and out). However, as tempting as it may be to sit at the desk and flip through social media (including our other wonderful blog posts on UniBuddy!), there may be a way to make the downtime productive. This could include things like organising desk drawers, researching an unfamiliar concept, meeting and networking with peers, or offering help to a colleague in need.

Have fun with it

Perhaps you were lucky enough to get your dream placement - or, perhaps you were allocated to a placement you may not have otherwise preferred. Regardless, it is important to make the most out of the experience no matter the cost. These memories will stay with you well into the beginning of your future career or your further studies.

May this post be a resource to help all of you navigate your first (or final) placements. Enjoy every moment you get within those timeframes, and as always, stay safe and well.