By Pruedence Liddy
Prudence Liddy is a Bachelor of Urban Planning (Honours)/Bachelor of Science student at Griffith University. She recently spoke with the Partnerships Office about her experiences during her placement with the Cairns Regional Council Disaster Management Unit.
I completed my placement with the Cairns Regional Council Disaster Management Unit as part of the Urban and Environmental Planning side of my double degree. I wanted a way to incorporate environmental science and urban planning, and I have a keen interest in disasters, so I decided that disaster management was a potential career path for me. I completed 2 months in Cairns, working on a project with Dr. Kimberley Reis about food contingency planning within the Cairns Region, finding methods to support vulnerable community members and increase community resilience in the region.
“I loved this research so much that I decided to do my honours thesis on the topic, with Kimberley and my Cairns placement supervisor as my honours supervisors.”
From work placement to honours project and authoring a journal article
My placement involves co-authoring a journal article with Kimberley on the same topic as my honours thesis; the project involves researching concepts such as disasters, vulnerability, resilience and food security. I’ve conducted an online survey as part of my thesis that I am using as the basis of research for the journal article to understand wants and needs of community members. The journal article combines the literature review I conducted with the survey results, ultimately making recommendations about how vulnerable communities can be supported to ensure food security is achieved in disaster events. If I had not completed an industry placement, I would be really lost in trying to figure out what I want to do when I graduate.
“I’ve gained experience in the three fields I am interested in; the private sector, the public sector, and academia. From these experiences I now know where my passion lies and what possibilities I can see for myself in the future.”
A foot in the door to a career path
Undertaking an industry placement has been important to me as I was able to see what types of work were possible after graduation. I’ve now completed work experience while in first year, a placement at part of my planning degree and now my WIL project. I’ve gained experience in the three fields I’m interested in; the private sector, the public sector, and academia. From these experiences I now know where my passion lies and what possibilities I can see for myself in the future. I am currently applying for graduate jobs, and I can see how competitive it is, however as I have a passion for what I want to do, and experience in different fields which really shines through.
The juggling act: practice for the real world
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my WIL project, it has been challenging in several ways; keeping to deadlines, juggling my project with other university assignments, and working from home due to COVID-19. However, these challenges have been beneficial in presenting me with what I am going to experience after graduating. I have felt supported by my supervisor and the Partnerships team, knowing that I have people who are supporting me and want me to succeed has really helped in motivating me. I’m grateful that I have been given the opportunity to co-author a journal article, it is a project that not very many students have the opportunity to do!
I’ve also gained an immense amount of confidence in my work from my project. Being in a supportive environment where I’m encouraged to succeed, but also reassured that if I do ‘fail’ that I’m only gaining more experience and learning more about myself, my capabilities and my project. I have gained skills in research synthesis, referencing, written and oral communication, decision making, and conducting a survey. Each of these skills I have developed will assist me in finding a graduate position.
“Short-term my goal is to be as employable as possible, gain the most experience I can and be adaptable to different workplaces. Long-term I aspire to work for the United Nations in their disaster management sector.”
Advice for students beginning Work Integrated Learning
My biggest piece of advice is to think about what you are passionate about and seek a placement that can provide you with this. When I was applying for placements I thought about my long-term and short-term goals, and my personal and professional values. Short-term my goal is to be as employable as possible, gain the most experience I can and be adaptable to different workplaces. Long-term I aspire to work for the United Nations in their disaster management sector. I value trust and loyalty, but I also see the utmost importance in being a pioneer and not following the crowd.
From this I then identified organisations that share my values and could support my goals. It was much easier to apply for placements that were less competitive and more easy to find, but I knew that if I wanted to get the most experience out of my placement I had to find somewhere that suited me well. Although it was a difficult and time-consuming process identifying these, it payed off as I am now extremely happy with my WIL project. I challenge anyone applying for a placement to think about their own goals and values and to find a placement that can support these.