Nadia – My Placement Year with GOSH

Nadia is a UoM psychology undergrad who is coming to the end of her year placement at Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health. The blog post below is a fantastic reflection on her placement experience, and is a must-read for anyone thinking about doing a placement year.

My name is Nadia and I am a third year Psychology student currently on a placement year at Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health as a research assistant on the Psychological Medicine Research Team (quite the mouthful!).

I will be soon finishing my placement in a few months and I can truly say this year has been a pivotal time in my life – not just career wise, but personally too. I have learnt so much more than I thought I would and feel so much more prepared for my future, post-graduation. I write this post in hope to encourage many more students to also take on a placement year and what to expect when they do.

How my placement changed, developed, and confirmed my career aspirations

I have wanted to be a clinical psychologist since the age of fifteen, and have thrown myself into the world of psychology to make sure I achieved this. I researched a lot and tried to get as much experience as possible, but I didn’t realise how ignorant I was about the path to becoming a psychologist until this placement. Working with the Psychological Medicine Research Team gave me the opportunity to work with highly esteemed researchers and clinical psychologists, who had all got to their careers through different ways. From their experiences I have learnt a few things; that there is no one route, it’s definitely not easy and be prepared for rejection, but you must persevere and be active. I also am working alongside people who have gone through the process of applying for the clinical doctorates and I have received so much useful advice and tips from them.

Working with this team has helped me to develop my career aspirations not only through watching them and talking to them, but also through the work I did. Meeting families and speaking to patients that were a part of the projects I worked on has sparked my interest in child mental health. One of the projects I have been working on is a mental health and wellbeing drop-in centre in the hospital, which gives patients, and their families, almost immediate access to mental health support, where we provide low-intensity interventions delivered by psychological wellbeing practitioners (PWPs). This, to me, sounds like an incredible thing, and watching it in action and seeing the impact it has had on these young children has driven my passion in young people’s mental health. Additionally, the experience of working in a research team, and seeing behind the scenes of a published paper has helped me to be less fearful about the aspect of going into research and I have the opportunity to attend many conferences and talks which has broadened my knowledge and interests in areas of research.

Challenges I have faced and overcome on my placement year

The first challenge was moving to London – a new big, busy and expensive city. It was difficult moving away from my university friends. After finally feeling settled in Manchester in second year, to just get move myself again to a whole new place felt rather daunting. I was scared but also incredibly excited because it was London, the buzzing city where so much goes on. The first few months after moving here were quite lonely and difficult, I didn’t know that many people here and even my flatmates were complete strangers. However, being in London meant there were so many things to do and see, and where there is the opportunity to meet new people. I had to try and overcome my social anxiety and get myself out there and so, outside of my placement, I have visited exhibitions, gone to talks and debates, concerts, and explored new cafes and restaurants and met great people. I was also lucky enough that my placement had other placement students who were really friendly and sociable. Again, it’s all about being active.

In terms of my placement, there are so many challenges I have faced from big to small. My personal experience may be different to others but the beginning of placement was difficult. I felt like I was not doing much as most of my tasks would entail simply just printing and scanning, and I would sometimes have moments where I had nothing to do – this was disheartening. However, what was really helpful was that I had a supervisor who I would meet with weekly to catch up on how I was getting on. For these first few meetings, I rarely voiced my honest thoughts as I felt the pressure to show appreciation for being there and for being a part of the team. However, once I spoke out and told my supervisor my concerns, she understood and agreed and I finally ended up doing more and being a part of other projects. This gave me the confidence to speak up more and realise nothing will change unless I make it happen by talking about it.

Another challenge I faced was time management and organisation (I learnt my lesson from when I asked for more things to do!). Before this placement, I considered myself an organised and efficient student, but I definitely had overestimated myself. After doing this placement, I have learnt never to trust my memory and write everything down, and that excel is my best friend. If there is one thing that this placement has certainly helped me with, it is my work ethic. There were moments where I was embarrassed and stressed, because I have made a lot of mistakes in my placement due to “human errors” and I would dwell on these, feeling like I was incompetent. After a while though, I took these as learning curves. This placement year was the wake-up call I needed, and I feel so much more prepared for my final year now and for my future. Nothing kicks you into gear like a 9 – 5 office job as a researcher!

My biggest challenge

Telephone calls. I used to never enjoy speaking to people over the phone and I would get anxious whenever this happened, even just to book a doctor’s appointment. However, this placement involves calling patients a lot and so I had to face my fears, but after doing a few phone calls I actually began to enjoy doing them and I have overcome the challenge of calling up people. (A great example of exposure therapy!)

A typical day in the office

My typical day on placement involves a lot of sitting at a computer, but I assure you this is not the only thing I do. Being part of a research project in a hospital involves a lot of admin, such as scanning, writing letters and data inputting, which sounds tedious but I have found it interesting to look at the progress of the patients we work with and see the difference we are making, just through the numbers I put on a database.

In addition to this, I have been involved in recruitment of patients, which means I spend my time going around meeting patients and families and talking to them about our project and asking if they would be interested. I have been quite successful and the relief I see on some parents’ faces when they realise there is actually support available for their family is so rewarding.

Other parts of my day may involve sitting in on assessments and treatment sessions with assistant psychologists or the PWPs, calling up patients to go through questionnaires, and attending meetings.

Overall, I felt like this placement was a crucial year for me in terms of my academic development. It has given me the opportunity to see what the working world is like and made the aspect of leaving university less scary. Despite the challenges and tough moments, this placement has given me such a unique experience and I have enjoyed being a part of such important work. I feel I was lucky in having this placement and that others may not have the same experience but there is a lot to learn from a placement year; being given the structure and responsibility like a true employee teaches you a lot that you can not get out of a university degree. I have learnt a lot about myself this year and I feel ready to complete my final year and graduate. I am really glad I did a placement year and I can’t recommend it enough.

Charity of the month: MASH

In honour of International Women’s Day 2018, this month’s Charity is MASH (Manchester Action on Street Health).

Since 1991, MASH has offered confidential, non-judgemental advice and support to women in sex work in Greater Manchester. They work with female sex workers to help them stay safe and healthy by providing condoms, advice, information and referrals to other services. Many of the women they help are extremely vulnerable, and often trapped in poverty and addiction, suffering from violence

Crucially, MASH empower the women they work with to make informed decisions about their lives. MASH’s Mission Statement is ‘to promote sexual health, wellbeing and personal safety whilst offering choice, support and empowerment to promote individual positive life changes’. Read more here about their six core values: User Centred, Empowering, Challenging, Partnership, Effective and Committed.

Illustration of the MASH centre on Fairfield Street

MASH operate mainly from their centre on Fairfield Street (behind Piccadilly station), but they also run street outreach work, going into saunas and providing services via the MASH mobile. The centre is a place for the service users to feel safe, grab a cup of tea, access sexual health advice, report a dodgy punter, and get help registering with a GP, among other things. In addition, the women can access one-to-one support, counselling, help with the law and a full sexual health screening. In 2016 alone, MASH supported 713 women.


There are currently seven 2nd year psychology students volunteering with MASH, as part of the short work placement module. Zainab Ahmed is one of those students, and when asked about her time with MASH she said:

‘I’d say it’s a very relaxed and warm atmosphere, with the service users and the volunteers. I’d say it is a safe space for everyone, and the most memorable thing about being there is how inspiring the women you meet are. I’ve met women who have started their own businesses selling hand – made jewellery and women who have rediscovered old passions. Despite going through traumatic and difficult experiences, they still find a way to continue to be open, kind hearted and generous and it just serves as a reminder how resilient the human spirit is. Being at MASH has been eye opening and hard at times, the struggles you read about are very different to hearing about it first hand and it just makes you so much more passionate about fighting for the rights and protection of women. As a volunteer, I am just really thankful to be in a position where I can be of some (very, very small) help at all.’

Illustrations of the women, see more here.

This year, MASH is launching its inaugural Ambassador Programme with an event at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. The purpose of the scheme is to recruit up to 10 volunteer ambassadors for 2018, whose role will be to build awareness of the work that MASH does and the issues that need addressing, with the ultimate aim of raising much needed funds. The first MASH ambassador is Stella Bowdell, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s Director of Membership and they are looking for enthusiastic & dynamic people to join Stella.

MASH will support the ambassadors to understand their work, through a structured programme, giving them the tools to become a confident ambassador. The scheme will be kick-started with a free networking event at GMCC from 5:30 – 6:30pm on Tuesday 20th March. Click here to find out more and book a place on the event now.


To find out more about getting involved in MASH’s work, click here.




Celebrating Student Volunteering Week at UoM

The 19 – 25 February 2018 sees the return of Student Volunteering Week – a national celebration of all things volunteering. The University of Manchester and University of Manchester Students’ Union have teamed up again to recognise our student volunteers and to encourage those who don’t already volunteer to give it a go. As many of you already know, volunteering experience is useful (if not vital) for a psychology specific career, with many assistant psychologist roles requiring a range of experience.

When it comes to volunteering there’s something for everyone, so during the week we will be encouraging you to sign-up to our Volunteer Hub, a database of over 400 volunteering opportunities of all varieties.


What’s On?

We’ll be hosting a variety of events throughout the week, including a volunteering road show. We’re going out and about on a volunteering tour around campus and in Fallowfield, signing students up to the Volunteer Hub and providing opportunities to win lots of prizes. Come and see us on any day during the week!

  • Monday 19 February, 11:00 – 14:00, outside the Students’ Union
  • Tuesday 20 February, 15:00 – 18:00, Owens Park campus
  • Wednesday 21 February, Big Action Day!
  • Thursday 22 February, 12:00 – 17:30, Sainsbury’s Fallowfield
  • Friday 23 February, 11:00 – 15:00, outside University Place

Wednesday 21 February 2018 sees the return of our Big Action Day! This year we will be transforming spaces across Fallowfield and Withington, focusing on student civic engagement. We’ll be based at St Chad’s Church in the heart of Fallowfield, where there will be a variety of different tasks available; from erecting a fence in the community wildlife garden and clearing the pond, to creating a new storage area and photographing the church’s interior. These activities contribute positively to civic life and give you the opportunity to get involved within your local community. You can pop in for an hour or attend the whole day. Why not come with your coursemates, housemates or society? You can sign-up here for more information and to let us know you’re coming, or just turn up on the day. Take a look at this video to see what we got up to last year!

big week

Across Student Volunteering Week there will also be a variety of information sessions and opportunities to get advice about volunteering both locally and overseas, so that anybody can give volunteering a go and find the perfect opportunity for you.

For more information about everything taking place please go to

Recognising Student Volunteers

During the week we’ll be distributing around 2000 thank you cards and badges to show our appreciation to our incredible volunteers. We will be encouraging students and staff to share their ‘Thank Yous’ on Twitter, using the hash tag #SVW2018, so you can keep up to date with some of the students receiving cards throughout the week.

Ella is a third year criminology and sociology student.  Volunteering regularly at a local Foodbank has given her an insight into how community based programs work. This has spurred her interest in wanting a career doing similar roles in the community for offenders and ex-offenders in the future.

Volunteering is an ideal way to learn about the inside workings of charities, CICs and social welfare based services or explore many different organisations if you are not sure what you want to do. This can help build your experience to benefit your later career options or even to decide how to spend your placement. Lots of organisations are keen to recruit psychology students for a variety of roles from counselling and mental health support lines, recovery coaches, wellbeing facilitators and Asylum Seeker and Refugee support advisers.  Find lots of opportunities like this on Volunteer Hub!

Tailor-Make your Placement Year: Interview with Grace Vella – The Birchwood Centre & the Clinical Commissioning Group

Grace Vella is currently splitting her placement year between working for the The Birchwood Centre, January’s Charity of the Month, and the West Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group. We went to visit her last week to find out how her year is going, and were amazed by the range of different projects, events and activities that she’s been getting involved in. The Birchwood Centre is in Grace’s hometown, Skelmersdale, and is an independent charity providing services for 13-25 year olds with the overall aim of preventing homelessness and improving wellbeing. They also provide supported accommodation, deliver mediation training and offer support with moving on to independent living.

Grace’s placement involves a mix between communicating with and helping the young people living at Birchwood, organising events, and working with local services and projects. Because her placement is so varied and tailor-made to her interests and skills, the experience she has gained will be directly relevant for several psychology career paths, from Clinical & Mental Health to more corporate roles such as PR, Marketing and Events Planning. Read her interview below.

What would a normal day at the Birchwood Centre look like for you?
A normal day at Birchwood involves sitting in the main living area getting on with whatever work or project I have been tasked with that day. I usually sit with other colleagues around the table as well as the residents who live at Birchwood, so it’s a busy atmosphere! My work so far at Birchwood involves designing questionnaires and interviews in order to collect data from current and ex-residents about their views on Birchwood, co-ordinating the Teenage Market, as well as helping out with the Employability project and Counselling service. Another project Birchwood undertake is the local Junk Food Café. This involves intercepting food from supermarkets that would otherwise be thrown away and creating a 3 course meal on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis for the community. Sometimes, I help out there with serving food and helping set up.

What would a normal day at the CCG look like for you?
The CCG is different as I tend to do most of the work they set me from home as it is primarily research based. However, I have attended meetings as well as visited inpatient mental health units in Liverpool and Ormskirk. My main piece of work with the CCG focuses on the development of a Recovery College, a relatively new way of looking at treating mental health difficulties, in my local area. I have visited other Recovery Colleges in the country as well as met with people who would use the facilities to help come up with our own model for Skelmersdale. Another project I am involved with is the ‘Well Skelmersdale’ project, which focuses on reducing health inequalities so that people can experience improved health and wellbeing. I put together a presentation which I delivered at a Well Skelmersdale meeting talking about how we can shape attitudes and behaviours and shift social norms.

Your placement with the Birchwood Centre is incredibly varied – was it like this from the beginning or has it evolved over the course of the year?
My placement with Birchwood began with collating data and designing questionnaires but I found quite quickly that there was a range of different projects that I could use my skills and get involved in. It was all about not being afraid to put yourself forward and offer your input. It definitely evolved over time, the more I felt comfortable being at Birchwood the more confident I felt venturing out from my usual work that I was familiar with. Before I knew it, I was coordinating the Teenage Market and helping out at the Junk Food Café! If I could give any advice to Psychology students wanting to gain experience or work placement it would be to just ask. Speak to as many people as you can and ask ask ask! That’s how I managed to organise my work placement. I completed a 30-hour placement with the CCG and just explained that there was an opportunity for a year placement and if they’d be interested in me doing more work for them. Even when I had started placement, if I heard anything that I fancied getting involved in I just asked if I could be a part of it.


Do you think that having such a varied placement year has given you a clearer idea of what sort of career you’d like to go into in the future?
I definitely think having such a varied placement has given me a clearer idea of the sort of career I’d like to go into. It’s allowed me to identify what I enjoy doing the most and helped me gain experience working with such a range of different people, which has taught me how to adapt in different situations. Although, I don’t know exactly what I want to do as a career, its allowed me to identify my passion for working in mental health. The CCG has given me a unique view of how health care works as a business and Birchwood has allowed me to have hands on experience working with those who access the care- so its definitely given me a holistic view of the whole process.  It’s only January as well, so I’m sure there will be even more projects and work for me to get involved with before I finish.

What skills are you developing that would be relevant to a career in Mental Health support services or Clinical Psychology?
At Birchwood, there are two mental health beds funded by the NHS, meaning that often I share my space with people with a range of mental health difficulties including depression, bipolar disorder, and emotional personality disorder. This has made my placement such an amazing learning experience as I have met and listened to so many different people and their stories. From the residents who live at Birchwood, to the people who use the Junk Food Café, my placement has helped me develop my skills in how to speak about and approach mental health topics.  It has also allowed me to develop my research skills including designing questionnaires and interviews, collecting the data and report writing.


What skills are you developing that would be relevant to a career in a more corporate setting? (e.g. PR, Marketing, Market Research, Events planning)
I was tasked with coordinating Skelmersdale’s first Teenage Market. The Teenage Market is a fast growing initiative that provides a platform for young people to be creative, either through selling their own products or in a performance. I had to promote the event online, speak at meetings about the event, designing posters and organise the traders and performers on the day. I also, helped organise the launch of Birchwood’s counselling service, which involved contacting people and designing displays about the services Birchwood offers.



How has your work with the CCG fed into your placement at the Birchwood Centre?
I met Stella whilst on work placement at the CCG. Due to Birchwood’s involvement in the community, Stella was often at meetings that I was at. The Recovery College concept would be something that would incorporate Birchwood’s services as well as Birchwood being involved in the Well Skelmersdale initiative. My placement kind of all fits in together as everyone is working towards improving health and wellbeing locally.

From the sounds of things, it seems that you have been able to take ownership of several projects – how do you think that having more responsibility has enhanced your placement experience?
Having more responsibility has pushed me to just get on with things myself. It has taught me to use my own initiative and to have confidence in my own ideas. At University, you’re given a lot of structure and targets to hit. Whereas, this placement has given me the freedom to do things in the way I feel is right and pushed me to make my own decisions about what would work best.


What’s the biggest challenge that you have come across so far?
My biggest challenge was definitely giving my presentation to the Well Skelmersdale meeting. I had never presented on my own to a large group of people before so it was something I was really nervous about. I was given a topic of research and it was really daunting knowing I had to go away and find out the best information and then present it. Its definitely made me feel more confident about presenting in the future.

What’s been the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your placement year so far?
The most rewarding aspect of my placement goes beyond the actual practical skills I have developed. Being at Birchwood has made me realise how important it is to grow and live in a supportive environment and how lucky I am to come from the background I have. I have met and had conversations with so many people which has opened my eyes to what life is like for so many people living with difficulties and mental illness. It has given me real life experience working in a unique setting which has taught me so much that I would never have learnt at University that I will take, not only into my career, but personal life as well.

Charity of the Month: Depaul UK

Depaul UK  is a youth homelessness charity that began in 1989 in response to growing homelessness in London. Since then they have expanded continuously, now working nationally and internationally with projects in Manchester, Ireland, Slovakia, Ukraine, France and the USA. The founder members all had their roots in the life and work of Saint Vincent de Paul (1581-1660).

Depaul UK focus on young people in crisis and beyond, and they run several projects throughout Greater Manchester.  They work closely with Manchester City Council and other housing providers as part of the Manchester Young People’s Housing Alliance, working together to provide supported housing for young people, in a project called Safestop Manchester.



Safestop have been in Manchester since 2000, and is a high-needs project, meaning that they will often house young people in crisis. Each person who is referred to them is assessed individually and a tailored support package is designed and put in place for their individual progression. This can include anything from helping them to register with a doctor, to attending appointments and referring them to specialist agencies if needed. The primary objective is to equip the young person with independent living skills that provide them with the confidence needed to move into their own tenancy, or into semi-supported living.


  • Oldham Reconnect work with young people aged 16 to 25 and their families to improve communication and relationships in order to prevent homelessness. It uses meditation and other tools to respond creatively and quickly.
  • Statham House Rochdale offer 24 hour support to young people (16-17) in the Rochdale area who are leaving care.
  • Oldham Pathway & Nightstop Oldham  aim to break the cycle of homelessness that young people can get caught up in, by helping them work through behaviours that prevent them from moving on and securing stable accommodation.
  • The Depaul Box Company have used the public association between homelessness and sleeping on boxes to develop a business idea to help fight homelessness. They sell packs of cardboard boxes in varying sizes, for moving home or storage, with all the profits going back to Depaul UK. So when you move your stuff, you’ll help a young person move off the streets.




Depaul UK’s emergency accommodation network, Nightstop, has launched a new film which aims to raise awareness of youth homelessness in Britain – #WeHearYou. It shares messages from young homeless people with strangers, filming their reactions to harrowing and real stories of rough sleeping and life on the streets.  Nightstop is also featured in a channel 4 documentary – ‘Would You Take in a Stranger?’ Watch it here.


Depaul have advertised short work placement opportunities within Psychology, and are currently working on year placement descriptions so keep an eye out. If you’re not doing placements but would like to get involved, they are always looking for committed volunteers who would like further experience with homelessness, youth support services and outreach work. They have centres all over the UK so you could get involved in your hometown as well as in Manchester. Get involved here.

  • Read the Depaul UK blog here.
  • Like them on Facebook here.
  • Follow them on Twitter here.


Placement Year Interview: Corah Lewis

Where was your year placement?
My placement was at the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health in London and I was working with the Psychological Medicine Research Team. I was involved in a number of research studies looking into the mental health and well-being of children with physical illnesses. I also had the opportunity to work with the Psychological Medicine Clinical Team at GOSH, helping to run psycho-education groups for young people with Tourette’s and observing CBT sessions working on a range of mental health difficulties.

If you moved out of Manchester, where did you live? 
I was lucky enough to have family who live in London who let me stay with them for the duration of my placement. It wasn’t a paid placement, so I don’t think I could have done it if I didn’t have them being so generous with their spare room!

Was your placement paid?
No it wasn’t paid, however they did cover my travel costs around London for the year.

Do you have any tips for accessing funding for placements?
I used the ‘Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding’, and I must have sent off around 20 letters/emails to different trusts and charities, and anyone who I thought it might be worth contacting. In the end I did get a decent amount of funding – I think when organisations saw a name like Great Ormond Street that caught their eye they were more open to offering funding.

What psychology-related skills did you use whilst on placement?
I used pretty much everything to do with Mental Health and clinical practices I had learned in my first and second year, including when I was working with young people who had depression and anxiety as a result of their physical condition. I also used a lot of skills from our research methods modules, everything from designing studies, to data collection methods and data analysis techniques.

Were there new skills that you needed to familiarise yourself with?
I didn’t realise how much went on behind the scenes of research, like all of the ethics applications, funding applications and how difficult it can be to get a study up and running. I had to learn pretty quickly what each involved and how I could best help. There are just so many things that that you wouldn’t think of because they go on behind the scenes, we just see the final publication.

What was the most challenging aspect of being on placement?
I think probably the amount of responsibility I had, in the setting up and running of the studies. There were a lot of jobs like referencing papers and getting them ready to be sent to journals and I do feel like they were really good at recognising when you put the effort in with tasks like that and rewarding you with a lot of responsibility.
At times I felt a bit like I was unqualified or unprepared for doing things, but it wasn’t at all like they were throwing me in the deep end. They were always very supportive and were there when I needed them to be, but I guess they just felt that I could do it so I just had to learn to believe in myself that I could do it!

What was the best/most enjoyable part of the placement?
I think the same thing – having so much responsibility. To be able to look back at it now and think ‘I designed that study’, or to be able to say ‘I did that’ is really rewarding. I think getting named on a paper was the best thing to come out of it, particularly when thinking about my CV and applying for jobs next year – to say that I am a published researcher will be great.

I think another major benefit of my placement was being able to start my final year research project early, I am looking into the mental health of young people with Cystic Fibrosis. Starting it early meant I could recruit GOSH patients as participants, and do it on something I was really passionate about which I think will mean I not only work harder at it but enjoy the whole process a whole lot more!

I also just loved finishing at 5 and having evenings and weekends to myself, and not being in the library all the time!

How has your placement year affected your career aspirations?
It hasn’t changed them at all, just re-enforced them – it’s made me want to go down the clinical route even more. It’s also confirmed for me that I want to work with children. I loved doing things like helping to run the Tourette’s groups and working with such amazing children and young people. There were a lot of students who were doing masters and PhDs, and were currently applying for the Clinical Doctorate, so I learnt a lot from them about how the application process works, which was really useful.

What’s your best tip for finding a placement/applying?
I was really lucky in that this was the first placement I applied for, but I didn’t under any circumstances think I was actually going to get it. I just thought it would be good practise to apply and thought I might as well, I had nothing to lose! So yeah I just went for it, and I would recommend that to others, go for any that you think look interesting!

Would you recommend doing a placement year to other students & why?
Yes definitely. I loved it, I stayed working there for 11 months in the end (longer than the required 9 months) because I was enjoying it so much and didn’t want to leave! Initially I saw it as a year where I could just try out something that I might want to do, and even if I came out of it thinking it’s absolutely not what I want to do, it’s still a really good use of the year. But I loved it so much and feel like I’ve made connections there that will hopefully be useful when I graduate. Even just having a break from Uni was so nice, I feel like I definitely needed that after second year. I feel I have come back to final year feeling fresh and ready to get back into it!

What would you say to people who are feeling demotivated?
I think just having that ‘nothing to lose’ mentality is really important. I’m fully expecting that when I come to apply for jobs after graduation that I will face rejection after rejection, so I feel like to be honest it might prepare you well for that! If you’re able to deal with it now then it won’t be as demotivating when it happens then. Keep trying and good luck with it!

Placement Year Interview: Ioana Pintilie

Where is your year placement? 
I’m currently doing a year placement as an Assistant User Researcher at HMRC digital, so I’m working in the public sector. I am based in Telford – although HMRC digital offers Industrial Placement roles in other locations across the UK as well

Is your placement paid?
Yes, my placement is paid.

What psychology-related skills or knowledge are you currently using whilst on this placement?
So far I have mainly used transferable skills that are often required in research environments, including psychological research. Analytical research, data handling & analysis, presentation and report writing skills and, of course, teamwork abilities.

What has been the most challenging aspect of the placement so far?
In terms of the work itself, I think something that did make me feel a bit overwhelmed was the enormous amount of knowledge that I had to catch up with and become accustomed to when I first joined the team. This includes everything from the context of their work, its relation to the works of other teams and the progress so far on their research, to local work procedures and jargon – and even team-only customs, like regular socials and daily work reviews. But if I am to compare how I feel at the moment to how I felt during my first few weeks, I would say I am making good progress.
                From a more personal perspective, I would say the entire change from being a student, surrounded by students, in a city like Manchester, to being an employee, surrounded by working professionals, away from my friends and familiar places, in an office near Telford town centre. It’s quite a drastic change, but I don’t regret it regardless of how much I miss my lifestyle from last year.

What has been the best/most enjoyable part of the placement?
I think the community within the workplace has been a really pleasant surprise. Being not only my first time working in the UK, but my first full-time job ever, I arrived here with plenty of worries with regards to how I will manage to adapt to a highly professional and high-standard working environment after having spent the past two years surrounded by fellow students. Not to mention all the scenarios that I had in my mind, as a foreigner, where even the slightest cultural differences would somehow lead to awkward situations between me and my workmates.
Instead, I’ve found myself in a diverse and welcoming community, where workmates are always happy to support each other, where effort is constantly made to make the work both efficient and engaging even at the busiest times and where teamwork and collaboration across teams is encouraged at all times – both within and outside of the office! It is, indeed, an ideal work environment from the social networking and relationship building perspectives.

What aspect are you most excited about? 
In the near future, I will be leading interviews for user research, which is something I am both curious and excited about. In the more distant future, it is my hope to bring an important, meaningful contribution to any of the projects currently in development. So far I have been assisting several teams with all sorts of tasks that involve recruitment for research, report writing and conducting analytical research, which has gradually made me feel more ambitious. This will depend, however on both my personal progress and the progress of the work on developing projects at the moment.

How has your placement year affected your career aspirations?
The very reason why I have decided to do this placement year was to explore a career option I have not considered before, which is user research. At the end of my 12 months here I hope to be able to decide for myself whether or not a career in user research is something for me. Until then, I will make use of my time here to make discoveries about myself, my practical capabilities, my ambitions and my preferences in terms of a future career – things that until now have seemed quite ambiguous even to myself.

What’s your best tip for finding a placement/applying?
Basically, never stop looking and never stop applying. Make an effort to find some time every day to progress on this. If it’s time consuming, it’s because looking for any job, placement or full-time, is a job in itself. Start early and apply anywhere and everywhere – it could even be roles that don’t even have the word “Psychology” in their titles, tags or job descriptions. If someone between you and the employer should decide whether you are fit for a role, always leave the employer to decide, while you do your best to convince them you are.

If rejected, be resilient – do not be afraid to ask for feedback and acknowledge where and how you should improve. Make full use of both resources offered by the University and the Faculty as well as external ones. Do mock interviews, practice answers on typical questions, ask for help if you need it at any point – as repetitive as these words sound, I found all of this made such a huge difference in my case!

It’s a tiring, tedious and highly frustrating process, but the more effort you put into it, the sooner you’ll reach your desired outcome. If you do receive an offer, think very carefully if you should accept it immediately or if you can afford to keep looking for alternatives – ideally after requesting a deadline for your final decision with regards to that offer.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, do not be afraid to explore. Always keep in mind that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance and the benefits of such an experience are worth every effort.

Would you recommend a placement year to other students & why?
Yes, absolutely – especially if you are undecided about what you want to do after you graduate, like I am. A placement year is killing two birds with one stone: on one hand it allows you to afford exploring, asking questions, making mistakes, learning, discovering and developing a clear, practical skill set, as opposed to just academic knowledge. At the end of the placement year you will find yourself with extra skills and knowledge, which can only be a benefit to you.

On the other hand, outside of working hours, not having coursework and exams to worry about for a full year gives you the time to sit down and think. About anything – your ambitions, your passions, your abilities. You will be able to clearly illustrate to yourself what you know so far, what you don’t know and what you need to figure out. Strictly speaking, the worst thing that can happen is you realising mid-year that the work you are doing for the placement is not for you – which means you get to rule it out without the trouble you would expect in the context of a full-time, post-graduation job. In my view at least, a placement year can only be beneficial.

That being said, start applying if you haven’t already and make the coming academic year your year!

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT IOANA’S PLACEMENT read her ‘first week’ blog post on the HMRC website here!

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International Placements – Why do them? Where to look?


Working abroad can be personally, professionally, and academically beneficial, particularly in the globally connected world of today. It shows that you have an ability to adapt to a new professional and cultural environment, whilst still maintaining a life at home. Finding a placement or job abroad can seem like a lot of extra stuff to organise – because of visa requirements, funding etc. – but it is so worthwhile in the long-run and you’ll forget about all that extra stuff once it’s done. You can even use the extra organisation to your advantage by using it as an example of organisational or time-management skills on your CV or in Interviews.


The University has established links with various organisations overseas, including voluntary groups as well as more corporate, business-related  places. The first place to explore if you’re keen to find out more is Passport Careers  – an online platform that will help you explore jobs, internships, study abroad and volunteering around the world. Passport Careers is full of useful resources, including International Career Tools and Global Career Training.

globeIf you’re interested specifically in Voluntary positions, have a look at the International Volunteering Page on the University’s website. This contains information about SLV Global and The LIFE Foundation – two organisations which have existing close links with psychology. SLV Global is a graduate-led volunteering organisation working in Sri Lanka and Bali, Indonesia, and volunteers work within psychiatric facilities, mental health projects and teaching organisations, developing a wide range of skills throughout. SLV Global placements run from 4-12 weeks, so if you are interested in undertaking one as part of the year placement programme, you can combine it with another placement to make up the requirements.  The LIFE Foundation train volunteers to provide practical support to children and adults with disabilities and learning difficulties in Romania, in care homes and institutions. Volunteers are trained to provide stimulatory and therapeutic input with the aim of aiding development.

If you’re looking for a placement or job that isn’t in the voluntary sector, have a look at this page on the UoM Careers Service for information about ERASMUS and other international placement providers (some charge a fee for their services so research beforehand). There is also a link to ‘opportunities in different countries’, which are divided by region. This page has relevant links for Job Hunting and Passport Careers for individual countries/regions to narrow down your search further.

As with all job hunting, it’s also crucial to keep an eye on CareersLink. Using the Advanced Search in the vacancy tab, you can select all the countries you’d like to see opportunities from! CareersLink is being updated constantly, so either make sure you check it regularly, or select ‘email me new vacancies’ to be sure you’re on top of all new postings.


  • Funding – Working abroad can be extremely costly, particularly in certain regions and particularly if you are looking to voluntary work. Use the above resources to help you make a cost estimate, and then research the funding opportunities that may be available to you.
  • Organisation – setting up a placement abroad will require you to be even more organised, because things like Visa’s, funding applications, insurance checks etc. all take a while and have strict deadlines.
  • Language barriers – with SLV and the LIFE Foundation there are usually interpreters to aid with translation, but language barriers are certainly something to bear in mind if you are keen to go abroad for a placement/job, particularly if it is a longer-term arrangement.


TIPS: Searching for Jobs & Placements


If you’re currently searching for placement opportunities or graduate jobs, the chances are you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information about sectors and roles. Job searching can be particularly daunting with a degree as versatile as psychology, because graduates go into such a range of careers ranging from healthcare to business to charities. Using the Careers Service and Just for Psychologists, I’ve compiled a list of tips and useful websites that can be your go-to when looking for grad jobs/placements.

Top Tips for Finding Placements:

  • Decide on what you can and can’t be flexible on – if you are set on a particular sector or job; consider being flexible on location, and vice versa. Being dead set on every factor will limit the options open to you!
  • Using LinkedIn, find someone who has your dream job and look at their previous experience to see what career steps they took to get to where they are now. Research their previous roles for placement/grad job inspiration.
  • Set aside time a week to research/apply for positions. It can feel really time-consuming so if you incorporate it into your regular timetable it will feel less overwhelming. Once you’ve applied for a few, you’ll build up a bank of answers and experience.
  • Use your Careers Advisors! This page from Just for Psychologists has all the information you need to contact the Psychology Careers Experts (Jane and Amanda)
  • Don’t be put off if vacancies aren’t advertised – some organisations may be willing to tailor make a placement/grad job for the right candidate.
  • Attend as many Careers Fairs, events, workshops, talks… as possible! The more people you speak to the more confident you will feel when applying for positions.


Life-saving websites and online tools:

Setting up a LinkedIn profile can seem as time-consuming as writing a CV at first, but it’s really not. LinkedIn give you all the headings you need to complete, and you can pull most of the information you need from your CV. Once you’ve got a profile, you can use LinkedIn to search organisations that you’re interested in, stalk the people that work there, find out about similar organisations, ‘connect’ with people you think may be able to help you out etc. People are recruited and hired through LinkedIn every day – join here

Rate my Placement
Rate my Placement is a search engine of different placement schemes. It also has a bank of reviews from previous placement employees with detailed questions like: ‘what was the general atmosphere in your office? RMP lets you search jobs by industry, has info on the ‘top employers’ which are rated highly by users, and has an advice blog!

Prospects is a Career Development website that has a career planner quiz to match your skills and personality to a selection of jobs. It also has careers advice including CV and Cover Letter guidance, interview tips and a section called what can I do with my degree? See the psychology page here 

Starting Point Guides
Depending on which sector you are looking to go into, the way in which you start looking for a placement, and then the steps towards applying, will sometimes vary quite a lot. Even though a lot of employers will ask for a CV/Covering Letter, there are lots of other ways that a potential employer might assess an applicant. These starting point guides cover presentation skills, interviews and psychometric tests to list a few. At the bottom of the page there’s also a list of guides about different careers, sectors and occupations.

Just for Psychologists – Missed Anything?
This page on Just for Psychologists is where information and resources from previous events or workshops is are posted, for if you weren’t able to come along or you just want a refresher.

CareersLink – Organisation Directory
The Organisation Directory lists all of the organisations that actively recruit University of Manchester students and graduates. These include NHS organisations, charities/not-for-profits, marketing agencies and big retailers to name a few. Browsing the directory will open your eyes to how many organisations are looking to recruit Manchester students.



Placement Year Interview: Katy Robinson

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Katy Robinson is a final year psychology student who has recently returned from her placement working in the HR Department of Jacobs Douwe Egberts. 

Where was your year placement? 
HR Placement at Jacobs Douwe Egberts, based in Banbury, Oxfordshire.

If you moved out of Manchester for your placement, where did you live and how did you find housing?
lived in a flat with another other placement student (there were around 22 placement students across the business). We were invited to an ‘orientation day’ where we met other students, could start to find people we wanted to live with etc. Then we just connected with those people on social media and around April/May we went to view flats.

Was your placement paid?

What psychology-related skills or knowledge did you use whilst on this placement?
Working in Training and Development meant I used a lot of personality tests and indicators similar to Myers Briggs for team training exercises.

What was the most challenging aspect of being on placement?
There isn’t much going on in Banbury, so it was a change from Manchester. At first, working 9-5 was tiring but I soon got over that.

What was the best/most enjoyable part of the placement?
I loved the working routine, and having the evenings completely free with no guilt about doing work. I gained a lot of skills and experience that are proving very useful for applying to graduate schemes. Being paid was obviously a bonus too.

How has your placement year affected your career aspirations?
My year in HR at an FMCG has shown me that I am interested in working in the commercial world, but has opened my eyes to new parts of the business that I may want to work in, that I didn’t know about before.

What’s your best tip for finding a placement/applying?
Use Rate My Placement and the university careers site and apply for as many as you can. Take into account location and living arrangements too as they can make a difference to your year.

Would you recommend a placement year to other students & why?
Yes, it gave me an extra year to understand what I want (and don’t want) to do after university, it gave me skills and lots of stuff to put on my CV, I made connections in the corporate world that may help me in the future and it was a nice break from studying (the first Christmas break since I was 14 that I didn’t have to study through).