Getting the Most out of your Work Placement

Born and bred a British, Shamima, 17, is all about creativity and self-expression. She wishes to pursue a career in Medicine and pursue her interests in poetry, fashion, writing and maybe in the distant future, property development.

Getting a lot out of your work placement, work study, work

Getting relevant work experience is hard work; anyone who’s gone through a telephone directory with a phone in hand will know that. But what after you’ve got a placement?

Lucky enough to get a high tech extremely relevant placement?

The prospect of working somewhere in all the glories of your area of interest is exceedingly exciting, but deceiving. While I don’t want to burst your bubble of expectations, there are a few things you ought to be aware of to avoid the unexpected feeling of utter deflation.

  1. 1. The more high tech, the fewer the things you are able to do.

By which I mean, prepare yourself for a week of standing and watching (if you’re fortunate enough you may find a chair). It may not sound so bad but if you’ve been doing the same thing, or even completely nothing, for hours on end, you start to feel totally useless and bored out of your wits.

  1. 2. Busy working environment?

Sounds exciting, doesn’t it. Maybe for those working but for you it interprets as being useless and bored as well as having no one to talk to. Don’t expect to have someone by your side at all times, you may get left in the middle of nowhere doing nothing while everyone hustles and bustles around you. Frankly it is what it says on the tin!

That’s all the drudgery of it all, but even will these limitations it shouldn’t mean that your work experience should not be an absolute waste of time.

  1. 1. Watch and learn.

I expect you’ve been bargaining on getting to do the practical side of things, while that may not always be possible, there’s nothing preventing you learning the practical side of things.

  • Note the precautions and cautions
  • Note techniques used
  • Ask lots questions – don’t worry about hindering people, they expect it
  • consider ‘before’ and ‘after’

e.g.  If you were in a hospital pharmacy and are watching someone dispense medicine, ask about where the different prescription sheets come from, who signs and regulates them, when they need to be done by, and what precautions are taken to ensure that the correct medicines are dispensed. Will the patient need further guidance?


Make sure you understand what is going on, and if not, ask!


  1. 2. Look out for things they may not tell you.

Things like the working relationship between different members of staff can give you a good idea as to how as a professional you are expected to work. Is the atmosphere relaxed or is it quite formal. Do they stick to their own specific duties or does one person help another? How working speed is maintained and are there obvious hindrances. Try to spot examples of good attitudes and not so good attitudes, why are they so? Try to picture yourself in this working environment, how would you go about your daily duties, how will you make sure everything runs smoothly and efficiently? What will your role be in the team?

You can make your work placement a worthwhile experience. While it may not seem it at the time, looking back you’ll come to realise all the useful and insightful things that you’d picked up and learnt regarding your area of interest.

It’s safe to say that you don’t need a technical placement, there are other placements that may be less sophisticated but give you a greater opportunity play an active role i.e. a nursing home. My advice is to scale down your expectations and accept the more humble placements, that way you’ve more chance of getting one in the first placement and you might surprise yourself by enjoying it!

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In Leah’s Wake – a novel by Terri Giuliano Long
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