Thursday, 7 July 2016

Reflecting on my Placement year



I can’t believe it’s already been a year on placement in London and soon I will be heading back to university for my final year! – Scary.

I thought by doing this post it would be a good time to reflect on my time at Ralph Lauren and any tips I can offer to other students interested in doing a long-term internship or placement as part of their University degree.

Firstly I’d like to start off by saying a work placement is an amazing opportunity that shouldn’t be dismissed without serious thought. Experience these days counts for a lot in the work place so it’s good to make yourself stand out more to future employers and also get to grips with the realities of the industry you hope to work in. My own experience taught me more about what it is I actually want to do with my life more than university ever did, because there are only so much PowerPoint presentations and essays can teach you about the ‘real world’.

Moving on to my own placement experience, most people will say (especially in London) its ups and downs and I have to agree with this. Placement types will vary, however, mine was full time and paid to do the exact same job as a permanent employee. My job role was Buyers Admin assistant and I supported the buying team on womenswear for 8 months and menswear for 4 months. At Ralph Lauren it was mainly an admin and sample management role and presenting to directors during meetings was expected and done almost weekly. A lot of responsibility is put on your shoulders at Ralph Lauren; you are treated like a permanent employee, which in the long term is a positive thing.

Below are my 4 tips to anyone considering a placement or internship in any job role.

Treat everyone, as you would like to be treated

Fortunately for me, Ralph Lauren was a very friendly place to work throughout. It was also a stressful environment at certain times of the season, which can bring out the snappy side in people. No matter how frustrated you get at a situation/someone and vice versa its important to stay calm, keep smiling and not take it personally. That person who just rudely snapped at you from another team and you retaliated could be the head of your department next month who will remember you as ‘that rude student placement’. – I can thankfully say this never happened to me!

Be Professional

In Uber corporate environments such as Ralph Lauren, it goes without saying. Professionalism at all times! You will gain a lot more respect from co workers and senior figures and be taken more seriously. I wouldn't consider myself 'corporate' at all, far from it, but professional I am.

Embrace criticism


I’m terrible at taking criticism. It’s hard when you try your best to then be told it wasn’t good enough. I take it personally and its something I’m working on. When receiving constructive criticism, instead of becoming overly defensive and getting upset try asking your manager ‘what exactly can I do next time to improve?’. Be specific. If you feel you’ve brought everything you can to the table under the circumstances, don’t be afraid to say so but also to ask for support.

Remember you are there to LEARN!

My final point is for you to remember that you are there to learn, so embrace the experience. Ask questions; learn all you can not only about your own department but also about other departments. In some placements such as mine it can be easy, when you have such a high workload to forget you are a student and end up getting caught in the ‘rat race’ doing the same thing every day. My biggest regret about my placement is that I have always been intrigued by Visual merchandising (even more so now) and I never pushed to shadow the Creative team. I doubt this would have been allowed, but I will never know because I didn’t push for it. 

Reflecting...

Looking back on my experience with Ralph Lauren, I cannot describe how lucky I feel to have worked for such an iconic brand. I realised towards the end of my placement, however, that for the future I need to be doing a job role that is more creative and I dare say it more inspiring. I love product, I love talking about product, I love learning about product and getting everyone else loving it too. If I were to continue with the type of role I had at Ralph Lauren I don’t believe it would fulfil the creative side of me.

All this goes back to my original point about learning more about what you want to do after doing placement. Yes, I may have come out of my placement wanting to do something very different to when I started, but that in it self is amazing! I’ve discovered what I really want to do before I’m tied to anything; I actually have a plan for life now.

I hope this has helped or assured a few of you! Please share your experiences of internships below in the comments or any questions you'd like to ask, I’d love to know J