The dreaded word: placement. Those studying education, social work, nursing, or any health- or community-service-related field know what I’m talking about. Placements are basically unpaid internships, but the search process is often grueling and similar to finding a real paid job.
Unlike most internships, placements tend to be more structured and prioritized. You would usually go to placement for two to three days a week and then have an end-of-week discussion with your placement class.
While snagging a placement opportunity may seem like a great deal, finishing the placement is a whole other thing. It’s challenging to motivate yourself in an unpaid job, and the reality is that many organizations don’t treat placement students well. Thus, as a placement student, you may feel that you’re in a toxic work environment with zero communication.
If you feel that way, here are nine tips:
1. Document your projects.
Documentation is important, especially throughout placement. It will be treated as hearsay if you do not document what happened. Therefore, if you feel dissatisfied with placement, continue to document what you are currently working on. If you were promised plenty of projects and were not given any, that is a huge warning sign.
2. Speak to your field supervisor.
Many schools will require you to resolve the issue with your field supervisor first. If you’re feeling uncomfortable and dissatisfied with how you are being treated, set up a meeting with your field supervisor and let them know. If they’re unavailable, send them an email saying that you need to catch up with them regarding learning goals. Hint: The fact that they’re constantly unavailable can also be documented as well.
3. Speak to your field professor.
Since there is a placement class where you can discuss your feelings, it is important to share what happened with your field professor. If your field supervisor rarely communicates with you or behaves unprofessionally, it’s important to let your professor know. Remember to send a meeting agenda when requesting to meet with the professor.
4. Contact your field placement coordinator.
A professional will also be in charge of field placements within your college. Although your primary communication will be with your supervisor and field professor, it is also important to let your coordinator know what is happening. As a result, there will not be any surprises.
5. Contact human resources.
If there is a human resources department, be sure to let them know your feelings. If you feel belittled and targeted in the placement environment, HR can provide you with the next steps. HR can also document the situation in case a similar situation were to happen in the future.
6. Try to disassociate from placement outside of work hours.
Although it is important to communicate with others, it is also important to care for yourself. When placement is over, try your best not to answer calls, emails, or messages regarding said placement. In addition, don’t work outside of your assigned hours.
7. Seek support as needed.
When going through a difficult field placement experience, make sure to let your peers know how you feel. You can also go to therapy or even talk to some of your family members.
8. Continue to ask for projects.
Although it may seem that you’re doing nothing at your placement, continue to ask your supervisor for tasks. If your supervisor cannot provide these tasks, communicate your doubts immediately and document them.
9. Map out an action/exit plan.
If nothing works out and the environment continues to burden you, write an exit plan. The exit plan will consider the different methods by which you can exit the placement and what you will have to prove to terminate the contract. Remember to consider all possible options, including being terminated or choosing to leave the placement. This will help you prepare for the worse of the worst.
Getting stuck in a toxic placement environment is stressful for any student. It can affect your mental and physical health in so many different ways. However, there are methods to navigate the environment and prepare for the worst if it does happen. After all, it’s a learning experience.
Featured image via Ivan Samkov on Pexels