5 Things that you can only learn from a Placement

Typically, you might not know what a placement is or may have no intention of doing an industrial placement when you are still familiarising the university. Until you start reaching out to the Careers Team – or they approach you – a lot of you may wonder whether postponing your graduation for a placement year is worth it.

For international students like me, you may even doubt whether an industrial placement is only available in the UK. This article is to address some of my takeaways from my placement experience in Hong Kong.

The article author photographed on his placement

1. Talking to your boss is not like talking to your tutor

This quite depends on the company culture and team size. Frankly speaking, when you’ve noticed that your boss made a mistake, try not to raise it in front of everyone and remind him personally. However, if your company culture is very participative and your boss is very welcome with suggestions, you have to do it the opposite, raise it immediately. You’ll need to adapt your approach to fit the culture of the team you are in.

2. Keep things systematic but not bureaucratic

In a business environment, it is good to keep things systematic as it prevents a lot of errors – especially when it comes to some highly regulated industries. However, if you are following the system without realising how to optimise the whole process, you will make it bureaucratic. Bureaucratic operation slows down the entire process and is unable to respond to the fast-moving environment.

3. After work activities are not just for fun – Play hard, Work hard

Yes, you may say that “happy-hour” is one of the most famous and best after-work activities for fun. More importantly, it is the best time to establish further cross-team networks or explore some possibilities for cross-department cooperation. If you can make use of your out-of-hours’ time, use it to build your cross-team networks, this will save you a lot of time and help with ice-breaking or getting support from other teams. But of course, do not forget to have fun!

4. External networking is always surprising

If you have the chance to reach out to external parties like to vendors or during business networking sessions, this may be a where you can get something unexpected. For example, when you talk to external parties, you may get your company a new partner. What’s more, you could even receive a new job offer if they spotted some potential in you.

5. KPI is what you should focus on, ROI is for the boss

When you are studying Business Management, you must familiarise with these metrics. However, when it comes to a real job environment, KPI is the primary metric that you should be looking at. The reason is that your boss has invested in you the day he/she decided to hire you, ROI is what they are looking at to see if you are good enough. You should strive to hit your KPI, or even exceed it to prove to your boss that you were a worthy hire.

To summarise, it is normal for you to not understand how important the points mentioned above are. However, if you are leaving university and starting your full-time career, these are essential in the workplace. The best – and the easiest way – to get yourself familiar with them is through doing a placement. This one-year experience can demonstrate your life after graduation and make you more capable and ready for the upcoming challenges.

For international students, you might want to consider doing a placement in your home country – like I did – as the experience that you have will be similar to what you have after graduating. Act now or you might regret it!

Article written by Cheuk Lau, University of Reading Student.

I am a Consumer Behaviour and Marketing student, completing half of my placement in my home country. As a FinTech enthusiast, I am now working in Bowtie , Hong Kong’s first virtual insurer, in Growth, Content and SEO. During my placement, I founded VBCompare, the a Virtual Banks comparing platform in Hong Kong, with my colleagues. I believe life is full of surprises that are waiting for you to discover them.  

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