How I used my placement year to improve my confidence

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Déborah Cardoso Ribas, a Creative and Professional Writing student, shares her experience working in the UWE Careers and Enterprise department

Team Entrepreneurship talk delivered by Déborah Cardoso Ribas

I came to UWE Bristol to pursue my passion for writing after leaving a Chemical Engineering degree at Edinburgh University. Breaking the mould of studying a subject that would give me a profession, to studying a subject that I am passionate about and can make a career of, was a bold but scary choice. Not at all popular within my family. I thought that doing a placement would validate my decision and help me understand what to do after graduating.

With a vocational degree like mine, there is no set career path. I have an array of skills that enable me to work in more creative settings, such as publishing. And equally are an asset in corporate areas like marketing and social media.

Having engaged before with the Student Ventures (Enterprise) team to develop a business to support beginner fiction writers, I knew I could be an entrepreneur. Still, I lacked the confidence to do it full-time. Therefore, I also wanted to use my placement year to make an informed decision. So, when I saw on Instagram that the Student Ventures team was recruiting, I did not hesitate and applied!

Application and Duties

The whole process was very smooth. The first stage was to fill in an application, describing my skills based on the job requirements. I was not asked to provide a cover letter or a CV, to which I was grateful as I didn’t have relevant work experience at the time. As part of the interview, I presented the resolution to a social media question and did an in-tray exercise.

To prepare, I used the UWE Careers Toolkit and booked a one-to-one appointment with a Careers Coach who advised me to use the STAR technique – very useful to answer competency-based questions in a story format.

A team of 5 professionals, smiling with their arms around each other
Student Ventures Team: Megan Griffins, Lewis Nicholson, Callum Usher-Dodd, Gabi Cox and Déborah Cardoso Ribas

I was offered the job on the same day as the interview, and a month later, in September, I started my role. Initially, I worked from home due to COVID, completing most of the training and induction online.

When the academic year began, I started working on campus in a split role between Careers and Student Ventures.  Overall, I had three main tasks besides managing and creating content for their social media channels:

  1. Frenchay Careers front desk, eight hours per week. I dealt with queries from students and supported the coaches with their appointments. I gained valuable experience in customer service and CV building. And I became more confident showcasing my skills both in a written and oral format.
  2. Bower Ashton Careers Team support, once a week. I promoted the services and supported finding job opportunities for ACE students. I learned about labour marketing information and strengthened my Microsoft Office IT skills.
  3. Student Ventures. I supported the team to deliver workshops and events, manage the inbox, and developed a personal project of my choice – a Brand Bible. I used my copywriting and scriptwriting skills to develop the Brand Bible, a document entailing key information about the service and how to best represent it internally and externally. I also increased my knowledge of independent businesses, mentoring and coaching.

I was surprised how much freedom I was given in the Student Ventures team; I remember being asked what I wanted to do: talk to students, work in the background, create content, deliver workshops… And I kind of did it all. Once I had done my day-to-day tasks, I was free to experiment and explore new ways of engaging our community or pitch an idea to my colleagues. And even though I was “just” a placement student, I felt extremely valued and that what I was doing was important.

Learning Opportunities

My line manager, Gabi Cox, encouraged me to pursue my personal interests, which led me to seek training in Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI). I became an EDI champion, engaging my team in conversations about the topic and actively promoting and communicating EDI initiatives.  

I pushed myself out of my comfort zone by delivering a talk to the Team Entrepreneurship cohort about Storytelling in Business: how to translate stories into copy that connects with audiences. I am now in the process of submitting a proposal to deliver a package of talks in the next academic year about Creativity in Business.

When working within Careers & Enterprise, you quickly understand the importance of planning and setting up objectives to achieve your short and long-term career goals. This year gave me the reassurance that I made the right decision by coming to UWE to study Creative and Professional Writing. Today, I feel more confident in my skills and the professional I am becoming. And although I am not sure yet if I will be a full-time entrepreneur after third year, I know which steps to take to start earning an income from my writing.

If you are considering doing a placement, I say go for it! Grab every opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and explore the possibilities. Most importantly, ask for help, do not be ashamed if you encounter challenges. It can get tough at times. It’s not easy to balance work commitments and course-related activities. But once you overcome the obstacles and reflect on all your achievements, you will be very proud of yourself.

United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 8. Decent work and economic growth

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