The Importance of Self Reflection
Can you remember what the lecturer said in your management lecture 9 months ago? What about that really important conversation that you had in your politics seminar just after Christmas? Surely you can remember when The Queen stood on a boat in the rain for her Jubilee?
In all likelihood, if you were to try to recall fine details of things that took place in the last year, the most recent events will be the most memorable. Throughout university, students attend lectures and make notes, so that when it comes to writing essays or revising for exams, things can be more easily remembered. Yet when it comes to work experience, the same principles of recording your learning for reflection at a later date are seldom applied.
Document Everything – you’ll Need it for your Job Applications
I always advise my students to keep a diary of their placement year, to document their learning and progression. It may sound like an onerous task, but if you spend just a few minutes a week logging what you have done and the experiences you have had, you will benefit in the long term. A placement isn’t just about the 12 months you are working for an employer – the experience you gain is what will help you to stand out in the highly competitive graduate market.
The net result of keeping a diary of your placement will mean you have a bank of evidence to call upon when making graduate applications. Those competency based questions, asking you to detail examples of leadership, problem solving, teamwork etc will be so much easier to answer, but only if you can remember what you actually did. The steep learning curve of your first few weeks will blur into the distance by the time you reach the end of your internship, so if you are starting a placement shortly, remember to take note of what is going on and reflect on your learning.
Just because you do a placement, a positive graduate outcome is not guaranteed. You will still need to articulate in your applications and interviews what you have done whilst on placement, so in the same way that notes are made in lectures, maintaining a detailed account of your experience is a worthwhile activity.
Make the Most of the Placement Experience
You may find that your university already asks you to record your experiences, whether as part of an accredited module or as part of your PDP. If that is the case, you may see this as just another piece of university work and therefore have reluctance to do it. However, you have made the decision to take a placement because of the benefits it can have upon your early career. Don’t keep a placement diary just because your university will give you a few extra credits – do it for yourself so that you build up your portfolio of evidence enabling you to hit the ground running when the graduate jobs start opening up in the late summer.