Spending a year on placement gave me a great taste of the world of work

Katrina Bennett
Katrina Bennett
Now: Instructional Designer
BSc Psychology
Katrina chose to spend a year on a work placement as part of her psychology degree, working as a Research Assistant for Hampshire County Council attached to the Educational Psychology department. Although Katrina's career path has changed since then, the work experience she gained proved invaluable in building her confidence to join the world of work.
Katrina Bennett

What did you enjoy most about your degree? 

The best part of the degree, besides the wonderful friends I made along the way and all the fun things there are to do in Sheffield, was writing my dissertation. I enjoyed working closely with an individual professor and having the opportunity to discuss my work in detail with an experienced academic. Completing my dissertation significantly improved my writing and my ability to think critically. Additionally, individual sessions with my personal tutor were extremely valuable from a professional development perspective.

What are you doing now and how did you get into that role? 

I currently work as an Instructional Designer for a small scale-up company in Munich, Germany. We create e-learning programs for corporations on a range of topics under the umbrella of digitization, including machine learning, Internet of Things and cyber security. My specific role involves gathering information on new course topics directly from several experts in the field. Then, I collate the material into a digestible format for specific target groups. On a day-to-day basis, this involves interviewing experts, designing videos, PowerPoint slides, and text elements to disseminate the knowledge, as well as creating challenge activities in which the learners apply the knowledge they have learnt.

How has your degree helped you in your career?

I use my understanding of people’s behaviours every day in my work - even if it is subconsciously at times! During the final year of the course, I began to focus on developmental psychology and I find it amazing how many theories within the discipline can also be transferred to adult learning. My degree taught me to think critically and I use this skill constantly in my daily work: firstly by critically assessing sources of information I include in the modules, and checking them with other experts in the field to make sure they contain the most up-to-date, correct information. 

What scientific skills did you develop during your course? 

Through the course, I gained very good knowledge of statistical methods which can be applied in psychology to analyse and understand data trends. Additionally, I learnt to write scientific papers in concise language.

What transferable skills did you develop during your course? 

The main transferable skill I developed was the ability to think critically. It is a skill that does not develop naturally,  but instead needs to be applied and practiced in order to improve. The psychology course at Sheffield gave me many opportunities to practice.

What do you miss most about Sheffield? 

I miss the city, the Peak District, the social activities… the list could go only. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the course, but Sheffield as a city has so much to offer! It is in a wonderful location, easily reachable from many other cities, and as a student the public transport is brilliant. This means that students can get out into natural landscapes very easily, allowing you to walk off the stress of essay writing and exam preparation! I also have to say I really liked the libraries at Sheffield, they provided a very calm environment in which students could learn. After graduating, I went on to study for a masters at another institution, and I found that the library facilities were way better in Sheffield.

What would you say to a prospective student considering studying BSc Psychology with Employment Experience at Sheffield?  

I would recommend deciding which subject you want to study. This is the most important thing because the subject can define your career path and the opportunities you have after the programme. Once you are sure that Psychology is what you want to study, then visit the university buildings and check that the atmosphere is right for you. I always had a good feeling about Sheffield and honestly, I don’t know anyone who didn’t! Talk to staff, and current students - they are the ones who can give you the best advice.

Where did you go for your placement and what was your role? 

For my placement, I worked as a Research Assistant for Hampshire County Council. I worked with a small team of researchers specifically attached to the Educational Psychology department.

What sort of things did you do on your placement? 

A lot of my tasks involved data collection, data entry, data analysis, and report writing. I was involved in a real variety of projects from evaluating maths initiatives to analysing the efficiency of time management of Speech and Language Therapists. Additionally, I was able to shadow Educational Psychologists (EPs), which also involved completing regular assessments with children needing extra support, making observations, writing up notes and discussing this with other EPs.

What skills did you learn during your placement? 

I developed my commercial awareness and an understanding of the challenges faced when working with schools due to the political barriers and financial limitations. I also enhanced my team working skills as I worked not only in small teams, but also with a larger group of EPs, this meant I saw different group dynamics and observed best practices for demonstrating leadership and managing changing dynamics.

What did you enjoy most about the placement year? 

My placement year was fantastic and it really helped me to focus my studies in the final year! I really enjoyed the fact that my placement provided a welcome break from learning and theorising. It gave me the opportunity to actually apply what I had learnt in earlier years of study. This meant I came back to Sheffield for the final year with more motivation, and a greater understanding of why I was studying psychology and where the degree could take me in the future.

How do you think the placement year has helped your career? 

The placement year was my first experience in the working world. For me, this was invaluable, and I would highly recommend it to everyone, no matter what course they study. It meant that when I actually started my career, the adjustment to the world of work was less of a shock to the system because I already had some experience of how to communicate with colleagues and apply my knowledge which made me much more confident. Although my career path has changed quite a lot since then, it was a brilliant step into the working world!

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