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      Going out to work

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      Going out to work

      Hundreds of Newcastle University students are gaining valuable experience. They are embarking on work placements with organisations around the world.

      An illustration featuring Raveena Mehta and Sarah Jones.

      As a new graduate, taking the first leap into the competitive world of work can be a daunting experience. It’s not just a question of trying to make your CV stand out from the crowd. Or the fact that employers are looking for more than just good grades.

      Career paths

      Often, deciding which career path to take in the first place can be a difficult decision. That’s why trying a job for size before completing your studies can be such a beneficial experience.

      A work placement in the communications department of a global company proved that the corporate sector is a good fit for Raveena Mehta. Raveena is an English Language and Literature student at Newcastle University.

      Placements abroad

      For others, placements can open the door to opportunities in far-flung destinations.

      Chemical Engineering student Sarah Jones spent part of her year in industry working in Malaysia. Her experience armed her with new-found confidence. Plus, practical experience and a desire to work abroad.

      “Being in the workplace has given me such a boost. It made me realise that communication and teamwork are as important as the academic side of things,” she says.

      Raveena and Sarah are two of the 550 Newcastle students currently on work placements. We have placed students at 297 organisations in 21 countries.

      Optional placement years

      Starting in the 2017-2018 academic year, all Newcastle University undergraduates have the opportunity to undertake an optional placement year.

      Since then, there has been a 97% increase in the number of students choosing to embark on one as a formal part of their degree. Students can apply for placements directly through their academic school.

      They can also apply through the University’s Careers Service. Which provides guidance on searching and applying for placements. The Careers Service uses its Be Workplace Ready blog to give students an insight into the types of opportunities available.

      That’s the advantage of doing a year in industry. You learn which type of roles are available before you graduate.

      Raveena Mehta

      Discovering new job prospects

      As the first English Language and Literature student to undertake a placement year, Raveena hopes that others will follow her lead. She currently works as a communications intern at the Healthcare division of General Electric. This is a global company that sells medical equipment such as MRI and CT scanners.

      Her cousin, a Business Management student also at Newcastle University, completed one at Airbus. As a result, Raveena felt inspired to take a placement year. “On the one hand, having studied English Language and Literature, you can go into many things because it’s such a transferable degree.

      "On the other, there’s still an assumption that you will become a teacher. It’s time we broke those barriers.” says Raveena. Raveena applied for PR and marketing placements. General Electric Healthcare invited her to an interview for a role on their communications team.

      “At that point, I didn’t even know that communications existed,” she says. “That’s the advantage of doing a year in industry. You learn which type of roles are available before you graduate. Now that I’m in an office environment, I know what each different department does. It’s opened my eyes to what I can apply for in the future.”

      My advice to those thinking of doing a placement is to just go for it.

      Sarah Jones

      Practical experience

      Clarifying if a career path is right for you is one of the biggest advantages of doing a placement year. Especially for those feeling indecisive. “During my first and second years I wasn’t sure that the course I was doing was definitely something I wanted to go into,” admits Sarah. She is halfway through a placement with chemical manufacturer Synthomer.

      “I thought gaining some experience in industry would be a good idea. It has confirmed that this is an area I want to work in after all.” Sarah spent six months as a process engineer overseeing the production of latex at Synthomer’s site in Malaysia.

      She is now completing her placement year at the UK site in Grimsby. “I loved working in Malaysia; it was amazing to experience a different culture. I learnt a lot because I’d never been on a chemical site. I had my hard hat on every day, checking water leaks and doing pressure tests of pipes and reactors,” she recalls.

      “Initially I was surprised by the responsibility that I was given, but it was such a confidence boost. “My advice to those thinking of doing a placement is to just go for it,” she adds. “I went to the Careers Service and was very unsure about the whole thing. They asked me what my reasons were for not doing one and I didn’t have an answer. That’s why I decided to give it a go – and it’s been beneficial in every way.”

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