There are many challenges for you when participating in practical placement. The wide variety of tasks performed by students when on a placement will help develop a strong sense of teamwork, flexibility and an increased skill set.
Here are 8 tips to ensure that you leave your placement with a higher sense of autonomy and enhance confidence.
1. Prioritise your life (work and home)
To get the most of your placements, it is essential to consider your key priorities that will influence your future career and wellbeing. Managing work, making plans for the children (school pick-up/drop-off) and working out plans for dinner. Don’t forget to ask for help from family and friends if you need to.
To avoid rushing and running late on your first day, you will need to decide how you will get there. Options might include train, bus, tram or driving your own car. You will need to investigate whether there are train or bus services, as well as considering parking options near the placement facility.
You may wish to visit the organisation prior to beginning your placement as familiarising yourself with your work surrounding may help with nerves and provide an opportunity to build a rapport with co-workers.
Call your coordinator before starting. Introduce yourself and ask if there’s anything specific you can brush up on to prepare for the placement.
It is important that you that you attend placement everyday and be on time. If your placement commences at 8.30am, be there at 8.10am to settle in, put your things away, chat to other staff members, and be ready to begin your day. Prepare yourself and all the things that you need to take with you on placement the night before; have your uniform ready, etc. Be well-rested. You may think that people don’t notice when you arrive late or you rush in the door. Don’t forget - the way you display yourself whilst on placement can impact on your chances of gaining employment.
If you are unable to attend placement, you are required to contact (phone) your Teacher and the Coordinator at your facility.
3. Fitting into the team
It is hard entering a new workplace feeling the odd one out. You need to remember that everyone has experienced the same feelings. They will remember this and provide you with support and guidance; make sure you practice active listening. Try to get the balance right between being friendly and remaining professional. Be yourself, allow your co-workers to establish where your interests lie, be hard working, and show initiative.
Your opinions are valid. Don't be afraid to challenge the status quo, speak up and ask loads of questions - but remember to be professional, respectful and constructive.
4. Demonstrate initiative
Don’t wait to be asked to do something - take the lead or offer your assistance. This could be from gathering resources required to facilitate an activity or cleaning up after the exercise. If a task sounds ambiguous always ask for clarification.
Be prepared. Find time to complete your homework, familiarise yourself with any related theoretical framework, read material in advance and research the subject matter in advance. Grasp the opportunity to learn new skills by making yourself available for any additional work.
Being seen to be confident is important but that doesn’t mean knowing everything and not making mistakes. It does mean taking responsibility and acknowledging the mistakes and getting on with finding solutions.
Placements are also a good opportunity to learn about workplace dynamics. Sometimes the culture of the place will have a big impact on your experience and it can be good as a student to observe how an organisation runs. Spend time with residents and get to know them, but be genuine; they will know when you are not. Take the time to learn their names.
Keeping a reflective journal is compulsory with every placement. When writing reflectively as part of your placement requirements, you are expected to record the process of your reflection, identify and evaluate key learnings. Carry a pen and small notepad with you and make detailed notes. This will help with recalling situations when completing journal entries.
Reflection is a means of processing thoughts and feelings about an incident or a difficult day, and gives us a chance to come to terms with our thoughts and feelings about it. Reflection can be particularly useful in dealing with challenging situations.
Some of the things that you will reflect on could be but not limited to:
- What happened?
- What was the outcome?
- How did I feel about the situation?
- Were others affected by the experience?
- Was it a positive outcome?
- What have I improved on?
- What is it that I’m concerned about?
- What don’t I understand?
- What am I having difficulty with?
- What am I going to do?
Try to remain impartial and seek help if required from your Teacher or other students when completing your journal entries.
6. It is okay to take a break from study
Putting plans in place to manage your commitments will make the process a lot easier. You may decide to go home from placement spend time with the family, enjoy dinner then when everyone is in bed, settle down and complete your study.
There is no set way to achieve a balance, it is up to you and what you feel works best. Taking a break from study will help you refocus; it is all about work, life and study balance.
7. Say Yes to opportunities
Your placement can be both daunting and exciting. Try to seize every opportunity.
Placement is an opportunity to put theory into practice. Specifically, placement is a chance to observe what is involved in developing a yearly Leisure & Health program. As a student, you are free to make errors in a safe environment and ask plenty of questions.
8. Constructive feedback
Take on board constructive feedback as an opportunity to grow.
Building a rapport with your Coordinator will help you enjoy your placement. Your Coordinator is responsible for modelling good practices. Supporting your learning and providing ongoing feedback. Over the course of your placement the Workplace Supervisor will be observing how will you demonstrate your skills and knowledge. Exhibiting that you’ve listened to feedback will help with achieving positive appraisals.