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West Midland Safari and Leisure Park
About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

Working with and around animals has always been something I have enjoyed from a young age. One of the pieces of feedback I received about my CV from a job application was that, although everything was there in terms of academic achievement, there was nothing different, special or unique about my application. On request for further information about this he commented that when looking at an application he looks for that something a bit different and out of the ordinary that shows much more of a candidate's character than just their academia. So I put two and two together, and look for work experience in something completely different to what I do in my studies. Instead of thinking about what would benefit my CV, I thought about what I would actually enjoy.

How did you find your placement/internship?

Organisation website

Main responsibilities

Caring for and looking after the small animals used in demonstrations to the public and introductory meetings with children for the summer camp.

Typical day

Cleaning out and caring for the animals each morning, feeding and changing water. A rotation of daily enrichment for each of the animals, by setting the challenges to find their food, and where appropriate practice tricks with them for rewards. In the afternoon some of the animals were used for demonstrations for the public, making sure everyone involved (including the animal) was happy and relaxed during the demonstrations, teaching visitors relevant information about the animal on the encounter and letting them stroke it, if and when appropriate.

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

I really enjoyed the fact it was so different to anything I had completed before. It was refreshing to try something else for a change, and doing something because I enjoyed it, not because I felt like it was good for my long term betterment.
You also never know when you will be able to make more contacts for the future, while chatting to one of the office girls over my lunch break, I told her about my previous experience in PR firms, she passed on this information and the head of the office spoke to me on my last day. If I get in contact with them again over this next year, they may be able to find me a placement completing PR for the West Midlands Safari Park, thus potentially catering a career to something I am passionate about! No experience is bad, all of it is experience to something else, you never know what they will take you!

Challenging aspects

Coming out of your comfort zone. I am confident around animals but that becomes more challenging when you're introducing a group of young children to a nervous chinchilla, teaching them how to pet and treat the animals while holding the animal was tricky, all the children want to touch and pet it but our care is foremost for the animals so learning how to appropriately tell the children when was enough was hard at first. Also pushing yourself, on the Monday they asked if I could help out on the cockroach show but I was terrified to go near them so politely refused. By the Wednesday I was confidently holding them and introducing them to guests. Sometimes it's good to test and push yourself!

Advice to students

My piece of advice to students

Apply earlier than you think. By the time it gets to to Christmas a lot of places have already been filled, the earlier you get your CV and cover letters out there, the better.
Make this easy for yourself by staying up-to-date with your CV, every time you complete something new, or every few months check it and update it. Each time you look at it, you'll notice something else that could be improved. It also means if you spot a job or placement, your CV is ready to go!

If you're really eager to be organised, create a draft cover letter for yourself that is ready to be tailored to any job as you see fit. Even by just having the format and layout saved will save you a heck of a lot of time, particularly when you're sending them out to quite a few places, it means you've always got somewhere to start from.

Lastly, sending out a perfect CV and cover letter does not mean you will even hear back from places, let alone be offered anything. Be realistic, if you only send out 1 or 2 applications, you'll be lucky to land a placement. Christmas 2016, I sent out 15 applications, heard back from 5, got offered 3 placements. Treat searching for a job as a full time job - the same applies to placements.

Form completed: 17 Oct 2017

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