Our guest blog is written by Step candidate; Catherine Moore, a Queen’s University, Belfast, masters student studying Chemical Engineering and currently undertaking a 12 Month Industrial Placement at ADM.
Having applied to my University for a MEng sandwich course, I had always known that an experience in Industry prior to my final year was something I would be doing. For this reason, it was important to me to find the right kind of placement as it would be the first big step towards establishing my career. I had been on the lookout for placement opportunities throughout my 3rd year at university and when I found Step and read about the placements they offer from successful companies that are perhaps less obvious or well-known, I knew they were right for me. Once I had read about Archer Daniels Midland, I was surprised by how large scale the company was, with more than 270 processing plants over 140 countries, yet I had not heard of them before!
The application process itself was fairly typical; CV submission, followed by a telephone interview and a face-to-face interview. However what I was surprised by was how attentive Step were throughout the process, getting in touch after I first applied, phoning before my interviews to give tips and advice, and afterwards for some feedback to find out how I got on. I got the feeling that the people at Step really cared about guiding me through and wanted to see me succeed, which is something you cannot get by applying directly to a company.
Following the application I was lucky to be accepted as the successful intern, and prepared myself to move from my university life in Belfast where all my friends and family were, to start my placement with Archer Daniels Midland Company in Erith, Kent. Although not a big move, it was still the longest I had been away from home. Naturally I was nervous; but that was overcome from the excitement of London only being a 30 minute train journey in one direction and the beautiful Kent countryside to the other; I had the best of both worlds! Completing this placement abroad has given me an invaluable confidence to travel I don’t think I would have had before and I believe this will help me in any future job applications, with today’s companies becoming more and more global, a willingness to relocate is a real advantage.
My first few months on the job involved a lot of inductions and tours of different areas of the plant. I would advise students to not get overwhelmed when being given a tour of a big plant such as this. Take in what you can but know that you will have plenty of time to go round again and again yourself and take some time with equipment you are unfamiliar with. I was constantly learning and seeing things I had never seen before or had only briefly learned about in my course. To see the theory applied in real working situations makes you view things completely differently and I am now very excited for my final year project when I return to university. This placement was much more practical than I had imagined which I am so pleased about. My tasks take me out on the plant every day as well as having my own computer desk.
A particularly great thing about this placement was the attitude my fellow workers had towards me as a student, even though I am the only one they all see me as part of the team and constantly want me to improve and learn, in all departments, not just engineering. Everyone is always very happy to explain to me what their job involves and how all sections work together to keep the plant running, and I am even involved in some non-engineering committees such as the Energy team and the Risk Assessment committee. This ability to work with different employees from different career backgrounds with varying types of knowledge and skill, will be essential to my future as a Chemical Engineer. The projects I am involved in vary greatly from installing new steam traps to installing new cooling towers. Each job however small or big requires thought put into it, and as a student you will learn something new with each thing you do. I am having a wonderful time here in Erith so far, and to all the students who are thinking about or are currently applying, I wish you the best of luck!
My big tips for a successful Internship would be-
- Exhibit yourself! – Let people you work with know what your abilities and interests are and what you would like to improve on. If you don’t know yourself, be open-minded and offer yourself up to be involved in something you haven’t done before, you may be surprised by what you find interesting
- Think small! – Although applying for big brand names you are familiar with can be very tempting, the limited placements available can leave a lot of great candidates disheartened. Less well-known companies can give you just as valuable a placement without the competition. They also tend to take on fewer students which puts more focus on your progress as an individual.
- Give travelling a go! – The travelling itself can be an experience, immersing yourself in a different culture will enable you to gain perspective and help you when working with all different kinds of people. If you find it isn’t for you, don’t worry, as placements are only temporary, and discovering what isn’t suitable for you can be just as useful as discovering what does suit you, as it can help you discover what you really want from your career.
- Record your findings!– If it’s pictures, a diary, a word document, whatever works for you to keep track of what you’re doing. You will be surprised by how quickly time goes and how used you get to taking on new tasks all the time. Specific examples of the things you did and what you learned doing them will be of great help in future interviews.