My placement gave me the confidence to work in a professional environment

  • Date

    Wed 4 Mar 20

Alice McCormick

For International Women’s Day 2020, we want to celebrate the achievements of women who have been on a year’s placement as part of their undergraduate degree at Essex. We’ve asked some of these students to share their experiences and hopes for the future.

Here, Alice McCormick, who is studying Psychology, talks about her placement at St Vincent's Family Project as a Family Support Worker.

What got you interested in doing a placement year?
I always intended to do a placement year, because I believed that you could only learn so much in theory and that putting what I had learnt into practice before graduation would help me decide what kind of role I wanted to pursue after graduating.

How did you feel when you first started your placement?
Honestly, I was terrified. I had to move to London, and although I have worked since I was 15 years old, I’d never had a professional job before. I was also excited to try something new, but on my first day I was pure nerves.

What was your favourite part of your placement? What was something you didn’t enjoy?
I loved every aspect of working with the Project. They were welcoming without coddling and trusting without throwing me in the deep end. I got to meet some incredible people, with whom I am still in frequent contact, and I got to work with families who not only needed the services that we offered, but accepted the help with open arms, which is sometimes a rarity. I go back and visit them often, and I also keep in touch with some of my families. It was an eye-opening experience, professionally and personally as I learnt as much about what I want to do in the future as I did about jobs that won't suit me.

What do you feel you gained from your placement?
I feel that I gained a great insight into the inner workings of the higher levels of charities, as well as confidence working in a professional environment. I also learnt, and this was a big one, that I didn’t know half as much as I thought I did about anything in particular, but again, this opened the way for me to learn things I’ve never even thought about. It also gave me a good insight into what I would want to do after graduation which was very helpful.

How do you think your placement experience might change your future?
I plan to go back to working for the charity, at least for a while. They offer great opportunities and a safe place for me to formally start my professional career. It also offered me the chance to learn that there are certain aspects of the psychological field that I will not be exploring, whilst also offering me some very solid contacts for the future.

What’s next for you after graduation?
Outside of working for the charity, which will just be part time, I am hoping to also gain employment with another organisation. This will not only supplement my income but also give me a chance to explore a different aspect of the psychological field. My initial plan had been to go straight into further study, but I decided that I wanted some extra experience, in order to narrow down my options for future study.

What advice would you give to a woman searching for their placement now?
Be bold. There are so many aspects of the professional life that seem intimidating, male-dominated or just plain intimidating, but being brave enough to come and study something further means that you already have the wherewithal to do a placement. As long as you go in with an open mind and heart, then you will thrive.