Friday, 12 May 2017

Placements - getting the most out of them

Are you about to go on an industrial placement or study abroad as part of your MChem or MChemEng? You'll be pretty excited no doubt, and looking forward to:
  • experience of a new city/country/culture and working environment
  • the chance to see how industry or another university works, and to try out new roles there
  • working in varied, multi-disciplinary teams
  • meeting people who could play a significant role in your career and beginning to build a professional  network
  • the opportunity to learn new skills and develop existing skills
With that last point in mind, when you come to applying for graduate jobs, it's easy to forget what you achieved during your placement. If you develop and record your skills while you are away, then around graduation, you will have a full written record of what you have to offer employers for your applications. This will give you a huge advantage over those lesser mortals who have not done this essential preparation. What's the best way to do this?

Chemists - The Undergraduate Skills Record forms part of the Royal Society of Chemistry's (RSC) Continuing Professional Development (CPD) framework. The RSC say this recording tool "is the first step in achieving your full potential and demonstrates to an employer your commitment to chemistry, as well as starting you on the path (usually about 5 years) to becoming a Chartered Chemist or Scientist (CChem/CSci)", 

Chemists - Registered Scientist (RSci) via RSC/Science Council. Alternatively, undergraduate chemists can work towards RSci accreditation during their industrial placement. You submit your application immediately after completing the year and gain the title soon after this, all shiny and new to put on your CV when applying for graduate jobs. RSci is a lower level than chartership obviously, but it can count towards your CChem portfolio of evidence in your later career. 

It might help you to compare the professional accreditations available through the RSC/Science Council - RSciTech/RSci/CSci/CChem. The Undergraduate Skills Record above can also be used to help you record your evidence for RSci. The RSci application form is delightfully straightforward if you complete it  WITHIN SIX MONTHS of your placement. If you wait SEVEN MONTHS + though, it's a different story;  a toe-curling, palpitation-inducing form awaits you. 

Chemical Engineers - MyCareerPath provides competency profiles  - Chemical Engineering undergraduates would choose Chartered Chemical Engineer usually, but there are other profiles that you may be more interested in. You then create plans, add evidence of competences and generate reports to start you on the path to becoming a Chartered Chemical Engineer. 

So, as well as being handy go-to documents for job applications, these records start you on your formal CPD. You will need to detail all your CPD during the first few years of your graduate career anyway if you want to become chartered in the future.

Whichever method you use, assess your competences before you start your placement then revisit your profile regularly to reflect on your progress and add evidence. When writing your supporting evidence, try to make it varied and powerful. You can find a list of 'power' verbs here. If you use strong action verbs like these, your experiences will sound more specific and more interesting than if you used  more passive verbs.

NB - It's a great idea for any student, home or away, to keep these records. Staying in Edinburgh and undertaking your independent university project here also gives you an ideal opportunity to reflect on your skills development.