Bournemouth Pier

The Truth About Unpaid Placements

So what’s the truth? That’s a good question. One that I’ll try to answer for any future placement students considering it. Mainly because this year so far has been a crazy year for me.

In short, there are easier options. For sure! Taking on an unpaid placement in some ways has been a blessing and a curse for my placement year so far. And like my other blog posts, I am going to give you the finer details of my experience in the hope that you might learn from my mistakes and successes…

So lets get to it…

I’m not a student…Not yet a working girl (Spears. B., 2001).

Students are used to getting their loans in on a regular basis (without working for it) and if up to this point you have had a part-time job, then congrats. You are way more sensible than I was.

For those of you that don’t know, in your placement year your student loan gets cut quite dramatically. Now, if you are getting paid the average salary for a placement salary (approximately £1,000 pm) then that’s fine, no biggy right? If you are in my position and you aren’t getting paid, you need to do some real evaluations.

First, how much value will you get out of this placement; will it add to your experience and future career? And also what are your other options? Can you get the same experience and get paid for doing it?

I wanted a more hands-on placement than my course really gave me knowledge for. Studying marketing hindered me in a way as I was attempting to apply for web design companies, creating portfolios to prove I do have skills and potential as well as a lot of enthusiasm to learn. No one took me.

I found a 3 month placement advertised in Marketing but in the job description it had all of the same skills as other web design companies (without the requirements!) I jumped on it. I got it.

You will grow up if you have an unpaid placement. I’d say more than a paid one. You have to show the same dedication to work as someone who has the incentive of money for the same jobs as you.

You will have to be careful with your finances. Because you aren’t getting any more. And frankly, you probably aren’t a priority to the university any more.

“Placements are designed so that you can get a part-time job alongside them” Well that’s all well and good Janine but you still have your weekends. I’ll tell you it’s exhausting!

The Highlights of working TWO jobs

  • I don’t get weekends
  • I am tired all of the time. ALL OF THE TIME.
  • Coffee is my best friend.
  • I am either sat down at a desk thinking a lot or stood up, not doing a whole lot of thinking.
  • My social life has taken a hit.
  • I still don’t really have money.
  • Nostalgic about being a student always.
  • My weeks go so so quickly and no day is ever the same.
  • I have met a lot of people.
  • I have been put out of my comfort zone a hell of a lot. And that’s pretty cool.
  • I am actually having fun.

What have I learnt?

I have learnt so much since I have been at this placement. Honestly. I know everyone says that anyway because you don’t want to come back and tell everyone that your placement was admin and making coffees while theirs was directing their first press event for the latest Warner Brothers movie or something! But I genuinely have learnt so much. And not just about the industry. But myself. And adulting too.

I have my first day off next week. And in case you are wondering whether I am going to grab the bull by the horns and make use of this day; Maybe see my friends, hit the town, reinvent myself on this day…

…I will probably just be in bed surrounded by takeaway food, binge watching whatever is the newest TV series on Netflix without even seeing the light of day. And I can’t wait.

*side note* working an Unpaid placement may affect some of your choices like where you choose to live. Do not, I repeat, do not under-think these decisions. I have a lot of stories about the house I ended up living in because of the price and convenience for my placement. Maybe I’ll explain these to you one day. But if nothing else, trust me on this. Never buy a room off of Gumtree without looking at it first. Just saying…