Name – Catherine McCooey
Company – Titanic Foundation Ltd.
Role – Communications Assistant
Degree – BSc Public Relations
1) A typical day in placement is…
There was no typical day while I was on my Ulster University placement! No one day was the same. I think that’s what I enjoyed the most. From the planning, promotion, organisation and delivery of events and festivals to assisting in the development of a range of marketing and communications platforms and materials there was never a dull moment, there was always something different happening in the office or in Titanic Quarter.
2) What has surprised you the most about your placement?
Confidence and responsibility
I was so surprised with the responsibility and confidence that was placed in me from the beginning. It made me more competent in the sense that I was capable of tackling tasks and daily challenges.
I was made to feel like an integral part of the organisation, I wasn’t just a student from Ulster University, I was a valued employee and I was a colleague. I was able to report back at team meetings, providing progress reports on our social media TQEventsBelfast platforms, and attended industry events & conferences with the Chief Executive, which entailed live tweeting on the corporate Titanic Foundation twitter handle – @tfl_Belfast.
3) What has been your biggest challenge and achievement?
Establishing my confidence within the industry.
In the initial few months of my placement at various industry and networking events, I had a complete lack of confidence. I followed my manager around the room, not really interacting or talking with others and definitely not making the most out of the opportunities that were right in front of me. At my three-month appraisal, with my manager we identified moving forward, that I was going to develop my networking and stakeholder engagement skills, which would help build my confidence. My line manager provided me with guidance, training and useful tips on networking and in turn I built my confidence and started to represent Titanic Foundation at industry events on my own. This included Belfast Festivals Forum, Digital DNA Conference and attending industry events with my CEO. My biggest challenge and achievement was having the confidence to deliver a presentation on the digital media and what I had spent a year working on to the Titanic Foundation Board of Trustees, which included the former Chief Executive of SSE Arena, the Belfast Met College CEO, MLA’S, and the Operations Director at Belfast City Airport.
4) What skills and qualities have you developed through your role?
Throughout my placement with Titanic Foundation I feel that I have developed hugely, not only professionally but also personally.
I have established a new found confidence in myself at being able to communicate more clearly and effectively in regards to oral, written, presentation and report writing skills. From minute taking, to writing content for social media posts, to drafting event evaluation reports to preparing Titanic Quarter Destination Forum presentations.
I feel I now have the ability to establish good working relationships with people at different levels of an organisation.
5) What are the benefits of doing a placement?
Having a university degree isn’t enough anymore – experience is everything, that’s what employers want to see. They want to see that have you have been proactive in your university life in seeking opportunities where you can gain experience.
It gives you the opportunity to test the waters, to see if a career in the industry that you’ve always wanted is actually right for you or it gives you an opportunity to maybe try out something different, something you haven’t otherwise thought about.
I think that going on placement has now given me the driving force that I need in final year as I now have an idea of the type of job that I wish to have post-graduation and I have seen first-hand the effort and time that goes in to reaching that stage.
6) How do you think this will help your future career?
I think that this placement year is definitely the stepping stone that I need to help forge my future career in this competitive industry.
Working first hand alongside industry professionals has provided me with invaluable skill sets and experiences that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.
These are the types of things that you’re not going to read from a text book or a copious amount of lecture slides – even if you do absorb every single word and piece of data that’s been given to you, it’s not the same as actually getting out there and doing it.
7) Top Tips for second year students applying for a placement:
1) Keep your options open
When applying don’t limit yourself to one specific company or industry that you have always wanted to work for – broaden your scope and apply for a range of things, you never know what you will like until you try it.
2) Do your research
This kind of goes without saying. At the interview process your potential placement employer will want to see that you have done your background research and you are aware of and understand their company’s ethos. If you turn up to the interview and don’t know much about the employer you may as well not have turned up at all. They know you are a student so may be lacking in experience, so look at the job description and have examples prepared of what you think is relevant, from your uni teamwork to your part-time job.
3) Sort out your social media and manage your online reputation
In today’s digital centric era, you can be guaranteed that potential placement providers will be googling and checking out your online presence, especially on social media. Your digital footprint could make or break your chances of landing that placement that you’ve always wanted, so be very wary of the content you choose to post or share online.
4) Be yourself
There is no point being someone you’re not just because you think you will have a better chance at getting the job – if that’s the case maybe the job isn’t for you.
Placement providers don’t expect you to know everything, you’re not going to, at the end of the day you’re still a university student and you are there to learn.
And finally, I have been so lucky to do my placement with Titanic Foundation. Each day I was there I got to work alongside people who not only have a passion for what they do, but also take pride in work that they are creating. I didn’t want to leave!