“The easiest and most rewarding decision I have ever made”: My Placement at RDSi

Written by Hannah Tales

Having reached the six-month marker of a year-long work placement, I felt it was time to reflect on whether my decision to postpone my third year of study in Psychology at the University of Leeds was a decision well made. Leaving university and entering the big wide world of work is a very daunting path for many students, including myself, so I felt that gaining experience in advance of my graduation was a smart decision. I also hoped it would provide some perspective to take into my final year of study, as well as some practical application of Psychology which would help towards my dissertation and exams.
My first destination to find a placement was the university vacancy database where I scoured the opportunities looking for something relevant and interesting. It was here that I found a post from an international research and insights agency, seeking a trainee research executive. I read through the spec and drafted a covering letter, citing my course modules in qualitative and quantitative research as well as the statistical analysis experience I had picked up along the way. When I heard back from RDSi a few weeks later, I was thrilled (with a little anxiety) to discover I had been selected to attend a recruitment day.
The recruitment day was initially quite unnerving, but ultimately a very enjoyable experience. On the day we were required to complete an individual presentation to an audience of fellow candidates and the RDSi team. This was followed by a group task based on the sort of brief the team receive from clients, and we had to explore ideas as a group and explain how we would tackle this brief. These tasks gave me a real insight into the requirements of the role and what would be expected of the successful candidate (plot spoiler – me). However, one of the most telling parts of the day was the tea break, which was spent debating Jason Statham’s best movie roles, and this is when I knew just how well I would get on with the team.
This January marks 6-months since the start of my placement at RDSi. Ringing the buzzer on my first day was such a nerve-wracking feeling, as I had little idea of what 9-5 in an office was really like. But these nerves were nothing compared to the excitement I felt. After all the re-introductions to the team I was shown to my desk which was already set up with my own laptop and phone. I was so excited to get started!
I believed I had a fairly good understanding of research methodologies from my research based modules at University, however I soon discovered there are so many sides to research in the world of market & consumer insight that I never knew existed. I was thrown in the deep end and into various qual projects, and the methodologies for each were so varied. In my first month at RDSi I’d attended fieldwork groups and the debrief for one project, been involved with moderating an online community for another, assisted some depth interviews, and conducted some of my own rapido interviews. I repeat, in my first month!
This intensity thankfully hasn’t let up, and three months into my placement I began also working on quant projects. A few of my favourite quant projects so far include brand trackers for a number of sportswear brands, visitor experience surveys for numerous attraction sites, and concept testing for a snack food brand. As a dual-skilled research assistant, being able to work on both qual and quant projects opens the door to a massively varied list of projects I can get involved in.
I have learned so much during my first 6 months at RDSi, including that the workplace really isn’t as scary as it initially seems. Instead, it is a collaborative setting where I believe I have developed my understanding of, and ability to use, numerous qual and quant methodologies. This is in addition to growing my analytical skills, as well as communication, time management and people skills.
When my friends return home from university during the end of term holidays, I am constantly asked ‘but don’t you miss student life?!’. My reply is always simple – ‘no, I really don’t’. Until they get a job of their own (and hopefully one they enjoy as much as I do mine), they won’t understand the satisfaction you get from the workplace is far greater than university. So no, not a single part of me is looking forward to returning to boring lectures, stressful exams, cheesy student club nights (well maybe I miss these a little!!) and the impending doom of writing a dissertation in September. As now I have interesting work I can really get my teeth stuck into, have established a range of skills university would never have enabled me to develop, and met a great bunch of people I would never have met had they not been my work colleagues. For me, deciding to do a placement year was the easiest and most rewarding decision I have ever made.