‘My Student Placement Year’ – Grace Child
When I started my English Literature degree at Coventry University two years ago, my plan was to gain as much professional experience alongside my studies as possible. I have always been passionate about having a successful career in corporate communications and I knew getting real experience in the industry was the only way to make this a reality.
I undertook a lot of short work placements during my first two years of studying, including an editorial position at Grazia magazine and events volunteering with Macmillan Cancer Support, however when I saw that VisitBritain had advertised a role for a one year internship in their Strategy and Communications division, I realised that this could be a great opportunity for me to experience what corporate communications was really about.
Deciding to extend my degree and undertake a placement year was definitely a scary decision at first. I had never worked full time in an office environment and didn’t know what to expect, but I’m really glad I went for it. One year ago, I knew very little about the tourism industry compared to how much I have learnt in my time here and I can honestly say that tourism is an incredibly exciting environment to work in. International tourism is Britain’s 7th largest export industry and contributed £21.7 billion in spend to the economy in 2014. Tourism in the UK is at record numbers, and VisitBritain is at the forefront of growing this even more. In the past 8 months alone I had had an invaluable insight into how VisitBritain works as an organisation in promoting Britain overseas, working alongside stakeholders, destination management organisations and government organisations. I’ve been given the opportunity to work on a range of projects, such as the current re development of our corporate website, which has given me the chance to create website content which is accurate and engaging. I’ve also had the privilege of assisting on our corporate events, which has helped my organisational and time management skills hugely. Attending corporate events has also really helped my confidence in networking a skill I have learnt is core to have in the tourism industry. Not only are these great skills to be taking back with me for my final year of University, but they will really help me when applying for jobs in the future.
At VisitBritain I am learning from professionals who really know the industry and are experts at what they do. The support I have received from colleagues and managers during my time here has been overwhelming and I couldn’t have possibly asked for a better experience. I’ve got four months left at VisitBritain before I return to my final year of University and I’m excited to see what new challenges and learning curves this will bring.
My advice to any students looking to get ahead would be to start by taking on short work placements; I voluntarily wrote articles for a local online newspaper once a week whilst at University and this really helped me start developing my writing skills, which I knew would be key for a Communications role. Another good time is summer or Easter breaks; if you don’t want to commit to a long placement these can be really useful and help you to understand what career path to follow. Above all else, try to find an industry to work in which excites you. For me, VisitBritain has been a great combination of the perfect job role and industry, and I can definitely see myself working in tourism after I graduate.