Placements in a Pandemic?

By Hannah Vernon, Media & Communications at Gradcracker

Since the onset of COVID-19, companies across almost every sector have had to adapt to a new way of operating, where work is often carried out from home and teams collaborate virtually. And with this, work experience has taken on a new meaning. If you complete a placement or internship during the pandemic, the experience you gain perhaps won’t be what you were expecting, or what it might have otherwise been. But with that said, completing a placement or internship remains an extremely worthwhile experience – and I’m going to tell you why.

Many of our employers are going above and beyond to provide valuable work experience opportunities during the pandemic. They are modifying their placements and internships to ensure that students get the most out of their time with the company; for example, by substituting hands-on, technical work with online workshops. We’re also seeing an influx of virtual ‘Insight Events’, which can range from an hour to a couple of weeks long and provide students with an insight into a company and its opportunities. During these events, students can often develop skills that increase their employability and network with people from around the business. 

Get to know and learn from experienced colleagues.

Become part of a team

Starting a new role – perhaps even your first role – while working from home may seem strange, and even slightly daunting. But it’s important to understand that, whilst you may not be in an office with the rest of your team, you will not be alone. Through Zoom morning get-togethers and team meetings, you’ll get to know your colleagues and start building relationships with them. This will be particularly useful if you are to return as a graduate (and may even improve your prospect of doing so!).

Gain real-world experience

While you might not be able to work on-site or gain hands-on technical experience; you will have the opportunity to develop your technical knowledge by talking to experienced colleagues and getting involved in projects. You’ll become familiar with the business and how it operates, but you will also gain a more general awareness of how the concepts you learnt at university are applied in the real world. 

Find out what is important to you

A key benefit of work experience is that it helps you determine what you are most interested in. This will assist you in planning your next steps, whether that be choosing your modules once you return to university or having a better idea of the kind of graduate role you’d like to have. You could decide at the end of your placement that hands-on work is essential to you, and if you do, this is a valuable insight that you probably wouldn’t have gained had you not completed a placement from home.

Expand your skillset

Moreover, you can develop the kinds of ‘soft skills’ that employers really value. Whatever your role, you’re likely to practise teamworking, communication, presenting, time-management, handling responsibility and much more. By the end of your placement, you’ll not only have a bank of skills to draw upon, but also the evidence to back them up. These specific examples will really come in handy when putting together your graduate applications!

Land yourself a grad job

Completing a placement during the pandemic will highlight to employers that you are proactive; during uncertainty, you continued to search for opportunities, make the most of what was available to you and take steps to further your career. And, by completing a placement, you may even be invited to return to the company once you graduate!

I hope I’ve shown you that doing a placement or internship remains a truly valuable experience. Your next step is to start searching for your perfect opportunity – find thousands of STEM placements and internships on Gradcracker