The most rewarding part of my placement was feeling I was making a difference to the developments I was working on for Londoners

Alex Weir Undergrad Student
Alex Weir
Placement at Transport for London
BA Geography with Employment Experience
Follower her placement at Transport for London, Alex can now show employers that she has the knowledge and skills to do well in a professional job setting.

What did your placement involve, and why did you choose to do it?

I was an Assistant Area Planner for Transport for London. Working for the Area teams involved reviewing planning applications for any development which could have an impact on London’s transport network and making sure it meets London’s policy objectives. This involved a lot of negotiating with developers, boroughs and other parts of TfL, which was scary at first but I soon got used to it! The developments I worked on ranged from an application for a dropped kerb, to full developments with thousands of homes and associated retail space, to a future cycle route. There was a wide variety of developments to work on, so it was never boring!

How did you find your placement?

I really enjoyed my placement; we were treated like permanent members of staff, which came with a lot of responsibility. At first this felt a little daunting; representing TfL at meetings with little prior knowledge of planning, but my team were really supportive and I enjoyed getting stuck into different projects. 

As a placement student you learn lots of new skills without the pressure of being in a permanent job. Having the title of a ‘placement student’ means that the people around you know that you’re going to be making mistakes and that’s okay! I’ve also found that lots of people were really willing to teach me new things and I was allowed to do other projects in other teams. For example, I was able to learn how to use QGIS and make maps with a different team. With a permanent job, you are less likely to get the freedom to try different departments and gain experience. 

What was the size and type of the organisation, and what kind of team were you in?

Transport for London is responsible for London’s transport network, including the Underground, Overground, Trams, Buses, Cycles etc. I worked within the City Planning department, in one of the planning area teams. These teams work with the GLA, boroughs and developers to mitigate the impact of development on London’s transport network and ensure that it is in line with the Mayor’s strategic transport goals. 

How do you feel about a career after University now?

I feel much more confident about a career after university. Even if I choose not to go into planning after my degree, the soft skills I’ve learnt (such as writing emails, chairing meetings etc) will be useful for any job/career I choose afterwards. It’s nice to have an idea of what you are getting yourself into with a 9-5 before you finish uni! 

What was the most rewarding part of your placement?

The most rewarding part of my placement was feeling I was making a difference to the developments I was working on for Londoners. I also enjoyed eventually feeling that I knew what I was doing by the end of placement and being more confident in the role. 

What advice would you give to students who are thinking about doing a placement?

Go for it! I was not considering doing a placement with my degree, even in second year. It was only when I saw this opportunity that I applied and I’m so glad that I did! 

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