My placement year during a pandemic

By Govind Panesar, York Strengths and York Award Assistant

Expectations vs. reality

I am a placement year student working in the Careers and Placements department, where I assist in helping to support and promote student development programmes such as the York Award, York Strengths and York Leaders. I got offered this placement at the end of March of last year, when the country first got put in lockdown, therefore when it came to the following academic year I was aware of the fact that I might not be doing a typical year in industry. I knew that a large amount of my work would have to be done and communicated online, via zoom calls, emails and google sheets. I did not have massive expectations for the experience, as initially I was even very nervous about meeting my team and how efficiently working online could really be. Would I still be able to fit in? How do the communication dynamics change online? Am I able to gain that same level of trust and comfortability? Even though I worried about these things, in reality it was quite the opposite. I was able to communicate across platforms very well and I was able to get to know my team on a level where they could trust me with responsibility and I was confident enough to share my opinion. Although the experience had seemed to change, for example doing presentations online, the overall skills and goals that I hoped I would achieve on a placement year were still there. This I feel is something that could be valuable to share and, in this blog, I will talk about what my day to day looks like, how I’ve progressed throughout the year, how has our way of working adapted and when it comes to my placement year how the reality outmatched the expectations. 

Day to day routine

My typical working day starts at 9am. I work in my room from Monday to Wednesday, where I have a university laptop for my work. We typically have a team meeting everyday at 10am where we talk about the things we need to complete during the day and the bigger tasks we’re working on for the week. This meeting is very useful for me, as every day I have somewhere I can ask questions and keep myself up to date on any types of work that has critical delivery. The rest of my day, when I work only from home, is me in my room on my laptop either giving presentations online or working on promotional resources for our programmes. It is also my job to keep a track of our mailboxes and to answer any queries relating to York Strengths Online. I have a half an hour break but I finish my work at around 5pm. On Thursday and Friday however initially, I was able to go into campus to work in a secure covid free bubble at the Careers and Placements building. This allowed me to at least have some level of interaction with people I work with on a face to face basis. However, we have not been able to consistently keep these bubbles open, of course with the UK going into another lockdown in December. Therefore, I would work from home Monday to Friday, which has its positives and negatives but when it came to getting my work done my team and I were able to adapt well. 

How we adapted

As I previously mentioned, one of the best ways of communicating online was through a video call, and so through our google calendars we were able to consistently make meetings when everyone in our team was free. Having daily meetings online definitely helped, not only from a working perspective but in a way that really allowed me to get to know my team. It also allowed us to have more casual conversations that you might usually have when you bump into someone at an office. This helped our team dynamic massively and allowed me to grow my confidence in a professional environment. When it comes to our programmes, we had to adapt the way we work. For example, running our York Leaders programme online was something that was different but we were able to do successfully. Also, being given the responsibility to do online research that could feed into any of the programmes was very rewarding, more specifically the York Award programme that massively changed this year. Being a part of that process while strictly working online initially seemed difficult but as we adapted it became a lot easier.  Another example comes through when we deliver our promotional presentations on York Strengths and the York Award. Initially I wasn’t sure where to really look when giving the presentation, I was actually more nervous for an online presentation, as it felt more daunting not seeing any real faces. However, as I began to navigate Zoom better and we did more and more presentations, it became easier to do. 

My personal progress

Throughout the year the more responsibility and the more work I was given the more comfortable I became around my team. This has made me a more confident person in general, which when it comes to being placed in a professional environment is something that is incredibly valuable in any future job.  Whether it has been working on the programmes directly or helping to promote the programme or even any other types of work that helps to ease the workload of my colleagues, I have definitely felt that I have had a positive impact on our team this year. Even though most of the work has been done online due to the pandemic, it has and continues to be an amazing experience and something that I would highly recommend to anyone who is considering doing a placement remotely.