My placement year helped to build my confidence

Photo of economics students Arinola Lawal
Arinola Lawal
Undergraduate student
BA Economics with Employment Experience
Arinola did a placement year working as a Junior Commercial Manager at IBM in Manchester.

What was your placement year and why did you choose that organisation?

I spent my placement year working for IBM UK in delivering business and technical consulting services in Manchester. I was the Junior Commercial Manager on the team which meant that I worked with the Senior Commercial Manager to handle the commercial and legal aspects of the contract between IBM and the client.

I chose to apply to IBM because I had heard good feedback from another University of Sheffield student at a placement fair run by the Careers Service. After that, I did a bit more research and found out that IBM has been championing diversity and inclusion before they were properly defined in relation to the workplace.

They also have quite a wide variety of opportunities available for placement students which meant I would be able to find something that appealed to me.

When you add in the employment experience, not only do you gain economics knowledge, you also gain a deeper understanding of what you could do with your degree afterwards.

Arinola Lawal

Department of Economics

What would you say to someone thinking of doing a placement year?

The economics degree at the University of Sheffield is amazing! The learning experience for me has been so great and the transition from year to year has been equal parts challenging and exciting. By your third year, you fully appreciate the value of your degree because you get a bird’s-eye view of what it has all been leading up to.

When you add in the employment experience, not only do you gain economics knowledge, you also gain a deeper understanding of what you could do with your degree afterwards.

Equally as important are the soft skills you develop from working and the incredible opportunity you get to learn a lot more about yourself - especially what you would like in a graduate job and career.

What important skills did you learn from your placement year?

I learnt to tailor my communication styles appropriately to different individuals and scenarios. This became invaluable over the course of my placement year and it was a by-product of developing a rapport with people I worked closely with within IBM and with clients.

I also learnt how to present confidently. At the start of my placement, I was very focused on understanding my role and knowing what I had to do daily, weekly, monthly without prompts. After that, I began to contribute a lot in internal and external meetings.

I was constantly presenting my ideas and reporting on the commercial health of the strategic partnership we had with the client. This helped improve my confidence significantly and was then extended to public speaking whenever I represented IBM at high school and university career events.

Finally, I have become much better at taking on feedback as a result of being on placement. I was constantly seeking ways to improve in my role, and I did get a lot of constructive criticism from my manager and other senior members of the team.

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