Don't be afraid of contacting companies directly to ask for a placement
Where was your placement and what did it involve?
For my placement I worked for the Eden Rivers Trust based within the Eden catchment of Cumbria, specifically within the conservation team. Eden Rivers Trust is a charity formed in 1996 aiming to improve and preserve the River Eden, its tributaries and lakes. The trust takes a landscape scale approach to conservation specialising in natural flood management, river restoration and species reintroduction as well delivering water friendly farming and community engagement projects.
I worked predominantly within the conservation team, working on river restoration and natural flood management projects as well as assisting with the DEFRA test and trial scheme working with farmers to move towards more water friendly farming strategies.
How did you find your placement?
The trust did not advertise an official ‘placement scheme’ but I sent them an email along with a CV asking if they thought there was scope to work for them on a student placement basis. I then had an interview with them and a contract was agreed upon.
How did you use your geographical skills or knowledge in your work?
There were some clear skills that I had to use from my first two years of study that were used regularly whilst I was on placement. GIS (Geographic Information System) skills were certainly important as producing clear maps for land owners and funders was an important aspect as well as the extraction of accurate reliable literature for the design phase of particular projects, specifically in the natural flood management sector.
The main skills I felt I gained were probably a combination of confidence in speaking to a variety of stakeholders, from contractors to investors and the understanding of the importance of a secure financial infrastructure for a smaller charity like this.
Why did you choose to do a placement?
The main reason I decided to undertake a placement year as part of my degree was to gain experience in a relevant sector, as it appealed to me much more to gain this experience whilst I was still at university rather than graduating and then being told that before I could get a job I would need X amount of experience to apply. I had also hoped that a placement would either help me learn exactly what area I wanted to aim for in the future or rule certain sectors out.
How has your placement helped with employability, and what advice would you give students who are considering doing a placement?
Not only will you gain vital skills for future employment as well as hopefully finding the work interesting, it gives you the opportunity to build working relationships with people at your place of work which will also aid your applications for future employment either through references or directly during interviews, this will massively boost your success rate in those applications.
Immediately after completing my placement in April of 2022, I applied for a job in Scotland on a 4 month contract which I was successful in getting, which I would have had a very limited chance of getting without the skills and experience gained from my placement year. So if there was one bit of advice I could give you when applying it would be don’t be afraid to reach out to companies about working for them, the worst they can say is no.
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