Student's work placement confirms her career choice

Emily Smith’s decision to do a year’s work placement during her degree gave her the certainty she needed to pursue a career in the mental health sector.

Emily joined De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) in 2020 when she began her Psychology BSc degree. Initially her plan was to do the three-year degree with no work placement. However, when some of Emily’s house mates began planning work placements, Emily decided to see if it was an option for her.

560 Emily Smith

Emily on the Life Links stand at DMU for University Mental Health Day where she spoke to students about the help available to them.

She approached her lecturer about it and attended the Health and Life Sciences faculty's Plan Ahead, Value Employability (PAVE) conference where prospective employers were available to speak to and find out more about career options.

Emily was specifically interested in mental health and was already volunteering at Life Links, a Leicester-based mental health charity providing a wellness and mental health recovery service. Life Links agreed to offer Emily a year’s work placement and worked with the university to make sure her time there would be beneficial to her studies.

Emily said, “I enjoyed studying mental health but wanted to make sure that I was comfortable in that sector before putting everything into it. Psychology is very broad so it’s helpful to narrow it down and try out the different areas through a placement or volunteering to see if it’s really for you.”

During the work placement, Emily’s role as a Recovery Worker saw her support clients in one-to-one sessions and support groups, helping them to live more fulfilling lives, maintain independence and participate in community life. Emily carried out mental health assessments and created tailored, goal-oriented support plans. She also completed her Care Certificate qualification.

Emily talks about the skills she learnt during the placement, “I learnt about time management and working full-time to a very structured schedule. I got into the habit of keeping an organised calendar of tasks to manage my time well and keep on top of workloads.

“My confidence and presentation skills improved. I had to run workshops and present courses to a range of people and that made me a lot more confident. That was a big change for me – previously I would have been a bit scared before presenting but now there’s no anxiety and I’m happy to do it.

“The skills I developed, such as active listening and deductive reasoning, are very transferable to my studies.”

Following the placement, Emily returned to complete her final year with a new attitude. She said, “I’ve brought my new skills back to my studies and also a different attitude. I’ve come back excited for my final year and with a hard-working, more career-focused mindset.”

Emily definitely recommends doing a work placement and has even presented to other students on the benefits of doing it. “Gaining the experience has confirmed that I definitely want to be in that sector. The support from DMU throughout my degree and during my placement has been really good. I’ve never felt out of my depth – I knew that I could contact my lecturer if I needed support,” she said.

After she graduates in 2024, Emily wants to continue her studies with a postgraduate qualification, possibly in psychotherapy. However, she says she would also like to take gain another year’s work experience to gain some more practical experience in the sector.

Posted on Wednesday 1 November 2023

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