This year’s lead Placement and Employability Ambassador, Kaitlin McKenzie, tells us about her experience as an Editorial Intern for Debenhams…

What was your placement highlight?

Earlier this year I found myself sitting in the front row at London Fashion Week – and had to pinch myself. Two years ago, when I began my placement search, I could never have imagined the amazing places my placement experience would take me.

What made you want to do a placement?

There was never any doubt in my mind about doing a placement. I wanted to be as employable as possible when I graduated. In fact, one of the main reasons I chose to study at Portsmouth was the amount of support and encouragement offered for doing a year in industry. With the help of the Creative Careers team I secured an internship with Debenhams as an Editorial Assistant at their head office in London.

How did it feel going out on placement?

As soon as I’d started work, I knew doing a placement was the right choice. Within weeks my work was being published on the Debenhams website, lifestyle blog and in their online fashion magazine. There was never any tea making or pointless tasks. When you’re out on placement, you’re trusted with actual work and responsibilities that genuinely benefit the company you’re working for. Which is SO rewarding at this early stage of a career.

What kind of work did you do?

The main area of my work was planning and executing the editorial content for our fashion seasons and major marketing campaigns. I also got to write and edit our brochures, which were distributed to millions of people. After a few months I began to present Facebook and Instagram live videos that were watched by hundreds of thousands of people. I also got to take on exciting ad hoc tasks like covering London Fashion Week for Debenhams’ Editorial and social media channels!

What did you learn?

One major thing I gained from doing a placement was a reality check on what it’s actually like to work in the industry. I used to think the people working for these big-name companies were really scary, really experienced and a million miles away from where I was as a second-year. But almost straight away I was amazed to discover how down to earth and lovely the team at Debenhams were. They’ve become my friends, contacts and we’ve created great work together in a team. I now feel really comfortable in a professional environment, and much less daunted by the idea of applying to similar companies when I graduate.

Another thing I didn’t expect was how much fun I was going to have and how social a placement year could be. I probably went out more last year than I did either of my first two years of uni. If students are worried about getting too serious too soon… they definitely don’t need to! My placement was the best – and most fun – year of my life so far.

What’s it like being back at uni?

Now I’m back for the final year of my Creative and Media Writing degree and I’m already using the skills and discipline I developed during my placement. I can see a huge professional difference in myself. My year in industry has given me so much confidence not to mention contacts and experience, that I feel so ready to walk straight into the workplace when I graduate. In fact, I actually can’t wait to graduate! Weird for a final year student right? But I can’t wait to get back into it and show of all my shiny new skills.

We hear you’ve got a new job…

This year I’m working with the Creative Careers team as a Placement and Employability Ambassador! My role and goal is to encourage prospective students to find the Place-Meant for them. – See what I did there?! I’m also here to share my experiences and what I think about doing a year in industry…

So, what would you say to a potential placement student?

I understand that the idea of applying for and doing a placement seems like a mountain-sized task right now, and yeah, it is daunting and SUPER easy to put off. But so is applying for any job ever! Now you have a golden opportunity to go through every step of the process completely supported. The Creative Careers team help you with everything from initial advice, to sorting out your CV, to applications and interviews – which P.S. are nowhere near as scary as they sound.

This is also your chance to test out how you want to begin your career. When I was applying, I knew I wanted to write, but I really had no idea what I wanted to write. As far as I was concerned, I was going to be some kind of travel writer or amazingly successful author. I would never have guessed that I’d end up in the fashion industry or even considered working in marketing.

I’m so glad I was open minded in my placement search, because now I know exactly the kind of job I want to pursue when I graduate. But let’s say – worse case scenario – I’d hated Editorial and Fashion, the year wouldn’t have been for nothing. I’d still have come away with a clearer idea of what I did or did not want to do. AND unlike many graduates, I’d have a year of professional experience on my CV.

Don’t leave it too late to get started. I promise you, doing a placement will be the most fun and the best decision you’ll make at uni!

If you want more insider info on what it’s like to do a placement, book an appointment with Kaitlin or one of the other ambassadors for an informal chat, feedback or advice.