When I started my degree in Interaction Design at Ulster University, the placement year was always the most daunting aspect to me. I had a serious case of imposter syndrome, worrying that I would be in completely over my head and not know what I was doing.
However, I knew it was important for the career that I wanted, so I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and I am so glad I made that decision. If you are unsure about doing a placement year, whether it be because you don’t feel confident enough or you just want to finish your degree as soon as possible, here are a few reasons why I’m glad I did.
It prepares you for life after university
Although university can be extremely stressful and challenging, it’s almost like a little bubble away from the real world. The working world is very different, and it’s important to learn how to act in a professional environment.
Project turnaround can be much quicker than what you get for uni assignments, so placement really helps you work on time management and prioritise what tasks are most important from day to day.
One thing that my placement with DHD has really helped me with is working with other people, whether they be fellow designers or developers. Getting feedback and help from people more experienced than me has improved my work immensely.
Your skills improve much faster
Uni projects usually have a longer time scale as you are still finding your footing and learning the fundamentals, but the great thing about working at DHD is that every day is different. Working on a wide range of projects meant that I was really able to develop my skills in prototyping and design in a way that wouldn’t have been possible had I not done a placement year.
It’s so rewarding to be able to look back on my projects from when I started here compared to the work I’m producing now and see how far I’ve come in just a few months.
There are more opportunities for networking/collaborating
For me, the best part of this placement has been learning from the other talented designers on the team. Being able to watch their processes and hear their ideas has really inspired me and given me a different outlook and perspective on creative ideas, which in turn has helped me expand my knowledge of what UI/UX design entails.
As well as this, it has introduced me to more people in the design industry in Northern Ireland, and it’s so nice to see that there is a sense of community and a support network of designers locally.
You’ll be pushed out of your comfort zone
University consists of a lot of independent work; for me, this translated into becoming a bit antisocial and getting too comfortable just working at my laptop alone which I’m sure a lot of students can relate to.
To go straight from this into working with other people and communicating with clients can be a bit intimidating, so placement is a great way of taking small steps toward working professionally. My confidence has been boosted so much from working at DHD and I’m so grateful for the trust and encouragement they have given me along the way.
If a placement year is something you’re still on the fence about, I would honestly recommend anyone to do it. Not only will it help you grow professionally, but you will grow so much personally and gain the skills that will really benefit you when entering the working world once you graduate.