Sociology - Work placements
My name is Laura and I’m a third year Media, Communications and Sociology student.
Last year I opted in to the Quantitative Methods pathway offered by City, University of London (known as Q-Step). There are only 15 Q-Step centres in the country so not many students get this opportunity.
The main thing that convinced me to apply for the Q-step was that it offered the possibility to go on a placement. I thought this would be a great opportunity as it would allow me to improve my employability skills and to put this experience on my CV -which always looks good! I also thought it would help me to understand if I liked that type of job or not.
I have done 2 placements so far, one with NatCen (a leading social research institute) and one with The Finnish Social Science Data Archive (FSD). Finding the placements was really easy, NatCen was part of the Q-Step programme and my tutors helped me find and apply for FSD which made it really simple.
I worked at NatCen once a week for eleven weeks over the second semester of my second year. The placements counted as a module towards my degree. What was great was that I worked with their Press and Public Relations team which was great as my degree is both for Media and Sociology. I covered a wide range of tasks. First of all, I was asked to analyse some data on attitudes towards the Monarchy and to write a blog about it. Then I mostly helped the other members of the PR team by looking up contacts, selling reports to journalists, writing press releases and so on. During the second half of the placement I analysed some data in order to update a study on financial insecurity with the latest wave of the survey. This required us to carry out a number of steps of social research, from the analysis of the data to the writing up of the report, a press release and a blog about it. I have been offered a place at the AqMEN conference in Edinburgh to present what I have worked on while working at NatCen. This is a great opportunity to network and get more contacts from my placement.
Working at FSD was a very different experience. The most important task they needed me to cover was testing Aila, their interface which allows the public and users to download data from their archive, as no non-finnish speaker had ever tried it before. I would say I enjoyed a lot more working at FSD, for a number of reasons. First of all, it was a great opportunity to meet new people and be in a different culture. As I absolutely love travelling, it was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss. Secondly, it wasn’t so focused on just working, as people did their best to put me at ease and they were genuinely interested in getting to know me better. I felt like they really enjoyed having me as much as I enjoyed being there, I wasn’t just “another placement student”.
While I was there I was asked to write a blog about using Aila and test the new updated version (which is still not available to the public). I liked that I could get involved as a member of staff: saying what I found useful and what could be improved. I also helped with the arrangements for two conferences and familiarised myself with their online Data Management Guidelines. Although I was still working with their Press and Information Officer, this experience was very different. We would have daily coffee meetings all together in the meeting room in which everyone would take part. For them, having a coffee break is a social event. We went for lunch every day and socialised in the evenings.
My main ambition in life is discovering and getting to know new cultures and places but I am still not exactly sure about what I would like to do in my future. I think I learnt a lot from both placements. Both in terms of what it means to work in a professional environment and about myself and what I enjoy. It is very different from studying at uni, as you are a lot more independent in what you do and there isn’t too much guidance. You are expected to do your own thing and prove what you are capable of. I like this!