I spent my third year of university life on a 12 month placement, working for Smurfit Kappa. Smurfit Kappa is a FTSE 100 company that specialise in paper-based packaging. In my role, I had to ensure implementation of the International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) 14001 Environmental Management 2015 Standard. I met many helpful and welcoming people during my time and racked up my mileage travelling up and down the country… but here are just some of the things I learned whilst on my placement year.
LESSON 1: There are MANY options for the future.
I heard many stories of previous jobs and careers, and how individuals got where they were today, from various roles and opportunities available within the company. In addition to this, the opportunity to partake in training courses for the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) and Lead Auditing made me appreciate options outside of the company too.
LHS Photo: Glasgow Airport, RHS Photo: Morning View from a B&B in Norfolk
LESSON 2: I don’t like travel (I think).
In a usual job you will probably be in the same or a nearby location, Monday – Friday, 9 – 5. My placement was not usual, as I worked across 21 sites around the UK. It was good experience travelling to all the sites as they were so different, but it quickly became tiring. I think a contributing factor to this is that I relocated for my placement, far from any friends or family. I spent a lot of my year feeling unsettled, as I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post (Beating the Homesickness Blues).
LHS Photo: I Spotted a Familiar Name in Barnstaple! RHS Photo: Visiting the European Head Office in Amsterdam
LESSON 3: A full-time job is not like a part-time job.
I’ve had part-time jobs in the past but a full-time job is a completely different kettle of fish. Combine this for working across the UK in a central role, I learned a lot more about how a business works and what are the push and pull factors. Having had zero business experience before this was an eye opener, especially for such an established company.
LHS Photo: Sunsets in Weston-Super-Mare, RHS Photo: Crossing the Bridge to Work in Stalybridge in the Snow
LESSON 4: Diplomacy is a good skill to have.
During my time as the chair of the Feminist Society, there were times that I had to use a bit a diplomacy. I thought that this was a good skill, but only when you’re dealing with contentious subjects. Placement taught me that diplomacy is a good skill in any scenario!
LESSON 5: I am capable of so much more than I think
The girl in the photograph above is a 19 year old who just completed her first day at placement, with no idea just how much she was about to accomplish. Yes, I sometimes struggled with placement, but looking back at it now, it was totally worth it. I can sit here and proudly say that I played a large part in ensuring a FTSE 100 company had 21 of their manufacturing sites successfully meet an international standard, as approved by an external auditing company. All before the age of 21.