Thursday, October 25, 2012

Journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step

Winner of the Low Carbon Undergraduate of the Year award, Declan Bryans gives his advice on how to tackle a work placement.

Not even a year has passed since I entered the Undergraduate of the Year 2012 but reflecting back on it puts into perspective just how much someone can achieve in such a short period of time.  Back then my summer was set to be another uneventful period of time, biggest plan on the cards was to go out with friends and relax while waiting for the next year of university to begin.

It turns out my summer was very different than originally planned. 13th of April, my 21st birthday, was the day that my summer plans had changed. It was on that day I was announced as the winner of my award category, low carbon technologies.  All of a sudden I was talking about working for EDF Energy and told I would be going down to the Olympic games for a VIP day. Both were things I never even dreamt of achieving.

In this post I hope to give some sound advice for those who are going on placement for the first time and need to move away from home. The first challenges I came across was accommodation and finances. As soon as you have your start date, I would advise that you start looking for affordable accommodation. It is likely that the company you will be working for will know of some good places so it’s worthwhile asking. Once this is sourced, it is a good idea to get to know the person you are renting a room or flat from. This serves to fulfil two purposes: firstly it settles their mind as to what type of person you are, a lot of property owners out there have made massive investments and it is always a relief to know that the stranger living in their house won’t turn out to be a psychopath and destroy their hard work. Secondly, it also means they might be able to help you out a bit. This could range from them helping you with transport arrangements to and from work, or allowing a payment to come late: it removes a lot of stress from you.

Once that is all settled, the next big thing is the work placement itself. Chances are you’ll be there for 8 to 12 weeks; a lot of companies may see this like an extended interview and could lead to a future career with them. This doesn’t mean, however, that they expect you to know everything about their field; they know you are there to learn so you should adopt a questioning attitude. It will show that you are eager to learn and willing to improve. From this, it could leave a positive impression on your employer and, down the road, it may lead to a job offer.

My time with EDF has allowed me to develop exponentially, on my CV and personally. I have learnt so much from them and have managed to become more open minded to all the different sectors and aspects required in the energy sector. Unfortunately, I can’t talk on much of what I did during my placement.

The second part of my award prize was a VIP day at the London Olympics and it did not fail to impress. I watched the Olympics on the TV almost every day but that does not compare to the experience of actually being there. The sheer size and atmosphere was outstanding and I am glad that I can say I was a part of it all. The day started early with a tour of the London Eye before a very fancy lunch. However, the main event came in the afternoon when we attended the Basketball matches. Even although Great Britain weren’t doing particularly well in this front we managed to time it well enough to see them get their only victory against China and an excellent display of skill from Nigeria and France.  

To me this has been a massively successful summer that has potentially shaped my future career. This journey has only begun for me and I plan to build upon these successes and push my boundaries even further. I will finish my blog with one final piece of advice, none of this would have happened had I not took the 5 minutes to fill in the application form back in December. It is the smallest of actions that can make the biggest of changes and from the quote above, it starts with one small step to make a legendary journey. Take that step and remember that limits and boundaries are only there to be broken.