I went back to Huddersfield Uni on Thursday the 8th of November to talk to some of the current second year students about undertaking a work placement year and to share some of my experience working for Single Malt. It takes time to find the right placement, and it has to be the right place to make it worth taking a year out.

DEVELOPING SKILLS AT UNI

Finding a placement is difficult for everyone. You want to take into consideration the kind of place you want to work and what kind of work you want to be doing. As someone who didn’t have a lot of graphic design experience before starting Uni, I made sure that I produced a different style of outcome for each of my projects. Showing a wide range of skills in your portfolio will help the company to better understand your skills and how they can use and develop them.

Lucky for me Single Malt wanted to invest time in me, training me on different software and showing me the different types of jobs that are carried out within a design agency. Day to day jobs may vary from branding a company, designing event collateral, making posters and flyers, banners and info leaflets. It is always something different, and when you have a passion for different types of design it can only work in your favour. 

DO YOUR RESEARCH

Make sure where you apply to is going to provide you with essential experience on your placement year. If you get the impression that you’re just going to be making tea, maybe it won’t be worthwhile. I knew I wanted to stay away from home, so I had to take into consideration the living costs of where the job was. Working where I am now, I can afford my own place. Pay is one of those difficult things to discuss, and with so many work placements who don’t pay or only offer a small contribution to expenses, it is difficult to know what you are worth. I think when you are going to be doing any sort of work for a company, you should be paid. Work experience or not. There are still skills that you are bringing to the company and although you might not be earning big bucks to start with, you need to make sure you can afford to…you know… survive. I honestly think that some legislation should be brought in to stop students on placements working for free. 

COVER LETTERS

Getting together your portfolio is a time-consuming process, make sure you tailor it to the company that you are applying to. Take time to look into the work of the company and what you like about it. There was work I saw by Single Malt that I aspired to produce. Mentioning that in the initial cover letter will show that you have actually invested time in your research instead of just sending out hundreds of generic emails.

ESTABLISH YOUR ROLE

It is important to know what kind of work you are doing with the company, but don’t be put off if you have a skill that can’t necessarily be seen in their portfolio. For example, at Single Malt my hands-on approach to design has added to the company’s skill set and allowed us to produce some really interesting outcomes on some of the jobs we have collaboratively done. Even though you are a student you are still bringing something to the company.

Equally, it is important not to beat yourself about working slower, or not knowing the easiest way to do things. I have learnt how to do things so much faster than I did before, and it is something I know will get even better over time. But it is hard not to compare to the other people working at the company, but you have to remember that you are still learning, and they need to understand that. There is a reason they have taken on a student and not a graduate. It also helps that the whole team here at Single Malt are incredible at what they do and are the loveliest people to work with and have invested a lot of time teaching me new skills and showing me new and more effective ways of working. 

Making sure you know the ethos of the agency before applying, the kind of work that they do and what they are going to give you for the year that you are working for them. Of course, some people choose to go on lots of little placement throughout the year, but that wasn’t for me. I wanted to fully experience one particular agency and that is why I made sure it was the right one for me. After being here at Single Malt for a couple of months now I can’t imagine switching to go and work somewhere else, I feel there is still so much more still to learn and absorb. I think that moving placements regularly may only scratch the surface of what working in the industry is like, as you never really have the time to get settled and engrained into the company. 

Overall, I would Highly recommend doing a placement in industry, I feel that it is going to help me excel when I am in final year and has already given me some interesting ideas for what to write for my dissertation. And of course, I absolutely love working here at Single Malt and thinking about leaving to go back to Uni is a little scary at the moment!