Why I changed placements and my advice to others

By Chandni, interior architecture student.

I am currently on my placement year working as a trainee architect at the Leisure Expert Group in Amsterdam. The company designs theme parks, festivals, movie parks and other leisure experiences. However at the start of the year I was working for Sara Folch in Barcelona.

Why I changed my placement
After two months at my original placement I was experiencing low mood and I was unsure why. I was enjoying the culture, food, salsa dancing, living with a Spanish family and learning the language. But I realised I was not doing the work I had been promised, and was not getting the support or mentoring that was discussed. My goal was to learn and develop my skills as a designer, and that was not happening.

How I dealt with the situation
Firstly I spoke with my manager about introducing more design tasks, but this was unsuccessful. I then got in touch with my tutor and the placement team at Hallam to let them know what was happening. They were very supportive and were able to advise me on terminating my placement.

They also provided information about finding a new placement and doing the Placement Year Enterprise Scholarship. This is something you do for a minimum of five weeks and involves developing your own business.

I would advise anyone to stay in contact with the placement team regularly so you can address any issues and find a solution much earlier.

What I have learned about applying for placements
After my Barcelona placement I was understandably apprehensive about committing to another one. This made me re-evaluate what I really wanted, so I wrote a list of things that were important to me – such as work environment and working in a team, paid positions, mentoring and structure, and of course work relevant to my studies. These were all things I then asked companies about to make sure they were right for me, and I was right for them.

However you cannot afford to be too picky. I sent out over 20 applications to different firms and followed these up with emails and phone calls. Sometime you won’t get a response which is okay – it is all good practice writing cover letters. And you will get to a point where you have a few cover letters that you can easily alter for different companies which require specific skills.

Another thing I was advised to do (particularly for design students) is to attach a one-page portfolio with your CV which gives an overview of your work and skill set. That makes it easy for a company to see what you are capable of without looking through a long portfolio.

In conclusion…

  • It is important to be clear about what you would like to get out of your placement, eg what skills you would like to develop, the support you expect from the company (eg if you want to be mentored) and what types of projects you would like to be involved in.
  • Even though you have committed to a placement, if it’s not what you expected it’s okay to decide whether continuing is the right thing for you to do.
  • If you are unsure about anything it is always better to ask. Just be honest – you are not expected to know everything. You are there to learn.
  • Stay in touch with the placement team regularly as they can support and advise you.