Setting Yourself Up for Success in Your Practicum

A new school year means new classes, new experiences, and for many, a new practicum placement! A practicum is a great opportunity to learn more about your future career, meet other professionals in your field, engage with different areas in your profession, and gain hands-on experience. Whether this is your first placement or your fourth, it is important to start the year out with clarity around expectations and  to set the tone for the rest of your time at your placement. Here are some strategies to set yourself up for success!

Set goals for yourself and your work

Before you start a practicum, take some time to think about what you would like to accomplish and learn during your time at your placement. Do you want to gain a new skill? Focus on a particular aspect of your field? Find out what your profession is like in a different setting? Whatever you are interested in, setting goals will help you realize what areas are most important to you and will guide your priorities throughout your experience.

Share expectations and class requirements with your supervisor

Review your syllabus with your supervisor to give them an idea of when projects are due and areas on which you should focus. If there is a class project that you need to complete that your placement can’t accommodate, it’s good to know that at the beginning so you can make other plans. Your supervisor will also know to be on the lookout for other learning opportunities that connect with your course assignments.

Be clear about time commitments, boundaries, and roles

If you are only able to work certain hours or days at your placement, or really want more experience and would like any opportunity for more hours, communicate that to your supervisor and site as soon as possible. Confirmation of your exact role, duties, and expectations for professional boundaries will help to establish an accurate idea of what you are willing to commit for the duration of your experience.

Set up a supervision schedule with your supervisor

You are in a practicum to learn from other professionals in your field, but sometimes it can be difficult to have a regular time for supervision. Set up at least an hour a week for you to meet with your supervisor so that you can talk about how your work is going, ask any questions that you might have, and generally connect about practicum progress. A regular supervision schedule will help you receive the instruction and feedback that you need to be successful.

Start a system for tracking your hours

Even if you don’t have to track hours for your program, it is a good idea to keep a detailed record of your hours and also a list of the specific types of work that you completed. This will be helpful as a way to remember everything that you did at your placement, and to note in which areas you spent the most time. It can also be helpful if you notice that you are not getting as many hours as you would like in certain areas, so you can communicate your desire for more experience to your supervisor before the placement is over. Plus, a record of what you did will make it easy to update your résumé!

Interested in getting help on adding your new practicum experience to your résumé? Click here to schedule an appointment with a career coach at the Center for Career Development.

By Kalle Nelson
Kalle Nelson Graduate Assistant Kalle Nelson