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Completely Normal Worries about Starting a Placement

Careers AdviceStudent JobsWork Experience

This past week, I started my industrial placement year. Over the weekend I remember feeling increasingly more on edge and tetchy and just not myself at all. I wasn’t actively worrying about everything but I just felt completely off. Come Sunday evening, I was so nervous about going in the morning that I considered quitting before I’d even started.

Of course, I was so excited about the job and still so proud of myself that I’d managed to get it, it was the nerves taking over. Like any normal person who’s scared about grown-up responsibilities, I called my Mum. I’d like to say it was to have a completely rational conversation and to get her advice, but really, I just wanted some home comfort and to have a good complain about how I don’t want to do it. After taking some time to calm me down, the Mums pearl of wisdom came out that “it’s completely normal to be worried about starting any new job!”

So, I’ve compiled a short list of the emotions I felt before starting my placement that are completely normal to feel before starting your student placement or job, hopefully you can relate.

I don’t know what I’m doing

I’d convinced myself that I was going to get there and fail at the simplest of tasks because, after all, I’m only a student. I don’t know what I’m doing in any business that isn’t customer service. But that’s okay! My Mum reminded me that the reason I don’t know what to do is because they haven’t told me yet! At this point, having only met these people very briefly twice for my interviews, I’ve had no training and, other than the job spec and the short conversations I’ve had with them, I didn’t know what I’d being doing day-to-day, let alone how to do it.

When you start, remember the 30/60/90 rule. For the first 30 days, it’s all about the training. Soak up all the knowledge and focus on learning new processes. After that, you should work on expanding your knowledge and developing your expertise from what you’ve learnt up to 60 days. And then after 90 days you should have built your confidence enough to be able to make suggestions for adaptations and improvements.

What if I mess up?

Being scared to mess up was a complete by-product of not knowing what I’m doing. But the chances are, the company you’re with has been around for a little while and in that time, many people have started. Everyone makes mistakes when they first start working somewhere, it’s all part of the learning curve, and as a result, companies will usually know how to fix it. As with not knowing what to do, it’s expected that you won’t get everything right first time because you haven’t had the proper training or experience. Everything you do is a learning curve and a process, just make sure you work hard and it’ll all fall into place.

I don’t know anyone

It’s always scary going to a new place where you don’t know anyone, whether that be a placement, job or university, especially if all the people there already know each other. Everyone feels that, even the most confident and extroverted people. It’ll never be completely comfortable to walk into a place full of strangers but there are so many ways to meet new people at work. If you know of anyone starting at the same time as you, why not message them before-hand? Guaranteed they’re in the same boat as you and would really appreciate you reaching out. Talk to people when you’re there and get to know them, whether that’s people the desk next to you or when you’re in the staff room at lunch, and never be afraid to contribute to a conversation around you; it’s a great way to start talking to people without doing the awkward introduction conversations straight off the bat. And if your workplace does socials, summer parties, or goes out for drinks after work, join in! It’s always easier to get to know people when they’re not in work mode. And it’s a chance to let your personality shine and have fun with your work colleagues.

What can you do to prepare as much as possible?

There are so many parts of starting a placement, or any job for that matter, that are simply not things that you yourself can control. If you’re a micromanager like me, that can be quite stressful, but there are many things about your first few days that you can take charge of in order to minimize the pressure. For example, on the night before my first day at GRB, I made sure I made some lunch, decided what I was going to wear, and got my bag ready for the morning so that it was one less thing to worry about when I woke up. Researching the company again so that it’s fresh in your mind would never hurt, too, and make sure you know how you’re getting to work in the morning and what time you need to wake up and leave your house. After that, just try and relax. Watch a movie or read a book, anything to keep your mind occupied so you don’t unnecessarily overthink it, because it’ll be okay!

How it went for me

There’s no hiding it, it’s a lot to take in and a lot to learn, especially in the first couple of days. But there wasn’t a single thing that, once I took the time to actually look at it, I couldn’t wrap my head around. I’ve found that it’s all been a learning process, and there’s been so much support from everyone to help me settle in that it has been such a comfortable transition.

Like I’ve said, it’s completely normal to be nervous about starting any new job, but once you relax into it your worries seem almost inconsequential. At the end of the day, they know that you’re new and they know you’re a student. They won’t expect you to know everything. The best thing you can do is to make the most of your time there and soak up all the knowledge to bring back to your final year and, ultimately, your future career. So, in parting words, it’ll all be okay and remember, you won’t be new forever!

Enjoyed this blog? Take a look at: Why do a Placement Year? Our Top 7 Reasons or 7 Ways to Secure a Placement Year

Penny is a Marketing student at the University of Brighton, currently on placement year.

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