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My first month on Placement

I’ve now been doing my placement for 4 weeks…WHAT?!?! That’s a whole month of being a proper young professional and golly have I learnt a lot! In this blog, I’m going to give you a bit of a rundown of my first few weeks and give you advice that I’ve learnt so far as well as hopefully stop you from making some of my mistakes (fingers crossed!).

Just a quick bit of background about me: I’ve just finished my second year of an Economics degree at Newcastle University Business School and have started a placement in Customer Services with Johnson & Johnson. It’s been amazing so far, I’m in a lovely team and I’ve been able to go into the office every day. Below you can see a picture of me in the office!

Week 1

IT WAS TIRING!!

I’d spent the previous couple of weeks forcing myself to get up early, to “get used to” waking up early for the commute, but I wish I’d have enjoyed the beauty sleep and got some good rest before my first week. It was such a culture and lifestyle shock compared to university life. I was suddenly having to wake up at 06:15 to get the 07:00 bus, starting work between 08:00 and 08:30, working till 17:00 and then getting home between 18:00 and 18:30. They were lonnggggg days! Add into that the fact that every day I was meeting new people, learning new things and attending meetings. By the end of that week, I was shattered!

But, at the same time I was so pleased with the work I was being given, and the people I was meeting. Everyone was so lovely, and I was given work that actually mattered in the very first week!

On my first day I went round the office with a colleague, and we did a coffee run which I’d recommend others doing on their first day. It was a great chance to meet everyone and introduce myself quickly with no pressure. It’s also a great idea to turn up on your first day with a mini-introduction to yourself that you can tell people:

• Name, university, course
• What you’re hoping to gain from the year/ what you can bring
• Something fun about yourself (I introduced myself to one colleague and she asked me to say 3 things I like on the spot which under pressure is very hard to do!)

Week 2

In my second week I was feeling a lot more at ease with what I was doing, I’d got the hang of the bus route and who to eat with/where to eat lunch! There was still a lot of learning and training, plus attending meetings where I was only mildly aware of what was going on. However, it was great to be included, and if you’re not invited to many meetings in your first month then it’s worth asking and seeing what you can attend to just listen in on, you never know who you’ll meet or what you might learn. Something unexpected might pique your interest that you could ask to get involved in!

Week 3

This was the first time I’d had a proper ‘sit down’ meeting with my big manager and I think the past two weeks had got a bit on top of me because I spent most of the meeting crying! That weekend I’d just moved into my new house with 9 of the other placement students and my obvious lack of sleep had caught up to me at the worst time right in front of my manager! It was okay though as she gave me so much confidence and advice for the coming year. It also forced me to express my worries and concerns and made me feel much better in what I was doing. The rest of the week was more training, shadowing and practicing on the software they use.

Week 4

This week both my manager and supervisor were on holiday and so I felt like I was left slightly to my own devices, but I think it was a great chance for me to reach out to other people in the team for help and strengthen connections. By this point I’ve really gained confidence in myself that I do belong there and I am making a valuable contribution to the team which feels great! I was still completing training though, but it seems that the training is continuous as I’ll be constantly learning new things and being looped in on meetings with seniors about Johnson & Johnson.

Thoughts on my first month

Throughout my first month, I’ve been making my own set of work instructions for everything that I’m involved in. This is a great way to keep on top of what you’re doing and remind yourself of the process, especially with tasks that might be monthly so easy to forget about in the meantime. I’ve also made myself a word document with a list of all my yearly/continuous, monthly, weekly and daily tasks. This is a great prompt for myself whenever I’m a little confused as to what I’m doing.

A great tip I was told before joining is to make a list of the important people you meet along the way and possibly something conversational about themselves e.g. if they’ve been on holiday recently or have kids, this will help you to instantly break the ice next time you meet them as you as it shows your interest in getting to know them.

The first month should be all about listening, learning and trying to understand the environment you’re going to be working in. Try to say yes to as many opportunities as possible though and prove to your team that you are a hard worker and deserve to be there! At Johnson & Johnson they have also been hosting webinars over Zoom for Interns across the world, with advice and inspirational talks from the directors which are definitely worth going to if your company does something similar, it’s a great way to learn about who you’re working for and get a sense of the community.
I hope this blog has been of some help to you and encouraged you to pursue a placement for yourself!

Read more of my placement blogs.

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