Placements and internships are often mentioned, but we rarely hear what they actually are. Deciding to do a placement or an internship can be a difficult decision for you to make when you are unsure of how they work and what the benefits are. Having the chance to do one of these options is an incredible opportunity that will allow you to increase your skills and knowledge, making it much easier to know what you’re good at and what is the best path for you to take in the future. Employers also prefer candidates with experience, and your peers may not have taken this chance, which will give you the edge when you’re looking for your first proper job. They can be done either through your course or school or arranged independently.
When it comes to placements and internships there are some differences between the two: placements are usually a much longer commitment, and internships are shorter and more of an introduction to a particular workplace, designed to lead into a job at the end. However, on a day-to-day basis once you’re in the workplace, they’re much the same. When beginning an internship or work placement you will be expected to have knowledge of the company you’re working for and some basic skills that are relevant to the role. You should also be treated the same as any other member of staff, including your duties, hours, holidays and staff privileges. While placements are low-level, temporary positions, you should be treated with respect and not taken advantage of.
Placements can last from a few months to a year, as they tend to be a trial period for students to figure out if they like the industry and if they’d like to work somewhere like this in future. These types of placements are usually done during gaps in your studies (such as summer holidays) and are helpful as they give you an experience of what you might want to do after you leave full-time education and what your day-to-day life will be like if you choose to enter a similar job. It is also a good way to start networking within your industry and it may help you get your foot in the door for your first proper job.
As for internships, these differ from placements as they are much shorter (one to twelve weeks) and are usually done during term time. Taking on an internship will help you gain practical skills, workplace experience and a greater understanding of how to move forward in your career. At the end of an internship you will probably come out with a reference, which will help when applying for other jobs, and sometimes you can even land a job at the place you were doing an internship. Some internships are actually created with hiring the intern full-time as the end goal.
Another major difference is that internships are usually paid and placements generally are not. Receiving a wage always depends on what you do, the company you work with and the amount of time you are doing it for. However it’s unlikely that you will be paid for the placement if it’s only short term or something you arranged for yourself. Placements arranged through a course often come with a wage. It is important that you discuss this with your employer after you receive an offer.
It is more than likely that you will be assessed during your placement, especially if it’s part of your course or arranged through school. Employers usually track the progress of their employees regardless of whether they’re on a course. There are a few things that you will be potentially assessed on by your school or college, which are your completed tasks, applying your academic learning at work, and applying your workplace learning in your studies. How these are assessed varies.
Arranging a work placement or internship depends on what you are studying – some college courses require a work placement or offer it as a module, which usually means it will be arranged for you, and some schools help arrange these for students. If it’s not available through school or college but you feel that it will benefit you, then you can arrange one on your own. Some companies will advertise internship and placement positions or even recruit directly from schools and colleges. Finding one on your own will be a slower process, as you will have to complete a formal application, liaise with the company and do all the paperwork yourself. However, this extra effort can be very worthwhile if it means securing a foothold at a great company, or really feeling certain about what you want from your future.
If you’re looking for a placement or internship, some great places to start are:
- Company websites – you can research companies you are interested in and approach them directly, and some that offer these opportunities regularly will advertise vacancies on their websites.
- Graduate Talent Pool – government website designed to help new and recent graduates find internships.
- Placement Year International – provides paid business, hospitality, medicine and healthcare, sports and leisure, and teaching work placements for students and recent graduates.
- Intern Jobs – a global database of internships and entry-level positions for students, recent graduates and career changers.