Sam is a final year student in Economics, who completed a placement year with the Department of Work and Pensions in 2020/21. If you are interested in completing a placement between Stage 2 and Stage 3, you can find out more in the Business School UG Stage 2 Community 2021-22 on Canvas, or contact the NUBS Student Experience team.
The first thing to say about doing a placement is that it’s a massive change from the standard university lifestyle, with less free time and regular weekday nights out becoming distant memories. However, placements offer a great opportunity to gain invaluable skills and experience. The structure of working 9-5 teaches you good timekeeping that will stand you in good stead for your final year and beyond.
I found my placement as an Economist in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to be a great entry point into the world of full-time work. Below is a summary of what a typical day on placement in a government department is like.
7:45 A.M – Wake up
Due to COVID, I did my placement from home. Luckily this meant that I could get up a little later than if I had to commute to the Longbenton Office.
8:45/9 A.M – Start work
I made the long commute across my bedroom to my desk to log on and start the day. The Civil Service uses flexi-working, which means that you don’t have to start work at a set time. You can log on and off whenever you like so long as you work the hours. For instance, if I could start early and work 8-4 if I wanted to leave early one day, or I could work half an hour late on Thursday so I could finish half an hour early on Friday.
The first thing I did each day after logging on was open my calendar to see the meetings I had for the day. After this, I would check my emails and Teams messages and make a note of the tasks I needed to complete.
9:30 A.M – Daily team meeting
In our team of six, we would meet every morning to discuss our schedules for the day and any useful work developments. We sometimes also presented projects we were working on or practiced presentations we were giving that day.
10 A.M – 12:30/1 P.M – Meetings/Work on key projects
Generally, internal meetings with people in my area of the DWP took place in the mornings. Often we discussed the latest policy updates, new requests from senior civil servants or ministers, and updates on key projects. Any time not in meetings I would spend completing tasks, working on projects and responding to emails.
12:30/1 P.M – Lunch break
I took half an hour for lunch, but there was the flexibility to take longer breaks as long as the hours were made up at other times.
1/1:30 P.M – 4/4:30 P.M – Meetings/Work on key projects
In the afternoons, meetings tended to be with people outside of our area and were often presentations to non-analysts. If there was a free half an hour, my manager would often call to check on my development and how the work is coming along.
4/4:30 P.M – 4:30/5 P.M – Learning and Development
I aimed to try and do two hours a week of L&D, which can include things like training, seminars and shadowing colleagues in other divisions or departments.
4:30/5 – 5/5:30 P.M – Finishing up
Sending any work that has a deadline over to managers, responding to time-sensitive emails and making sure that everything is in order for the next day.
5/5:30 P.M – Clocking off