Eleanor Baker’s Work Placement with Zircon September 2010

September 24th, 2010 by Sarah Green Leave a reply »

It all began with an ill-prepared email addressed “to whom it may concern…” to Amanda Potter, Managing Director of Zircon. Amanda had very kindly replied, my inbox informed me. “While I appreciate your request for work experience, let me give you some advice….” I read, mortified. Too eager to secure a work placement and too unprepared to be let loose on my emails, Amanda opened my eyes to the blunder I had made – sending a particularly uninspiring blanket email to

multiple consultancies.

Overcoming my embarrassment I realised her advice was incredibly sound. I should, in future, find out who it was I should address my emails to, explain why I wanted work experience at that particular company and what I could bring to the role. And then it occurred to me; Amanda hadn’t actually said no! Feeling once again positive, and undeterred by the setback, I proceeded to thank her for her brilliant advice, and try again. I wanted to work at Zircon even more now. And this time it worked. (I hope not only because I followed every part of her advice to the word!) Yes! I was one of the lucky few students who managed to stumble through the doors and into the world of Zircon.

I am a final year undergraduate, studying Experimental Psychology, at Oxford University, New College, with an aim of becoming an Occupational Psychologist. So a chance to work alongside Amanda, a Chartered Psychologist and a Doctor of Occupational Psychology, was just what I was after. I wanted to learn more about what the consultants did, more about the company, how it worked, and the industry as a whole. I wanted to learn as much as I could. It turns out I couldn’t have been more fortunate with how it has all unfolded. The amount Amanda has been able to show me and teach me completely exceeded my expectations for this work experience placement.

I arrived at Amanda’s lovely garden office and launched straight into it. Amanda told me all about Zircon and asked me about what I wanted to get out of this experience. Right from that first day, and throughout, she has emphasised the importance of my own personal development. This is how I believe she stands herself apart from other employers taking on students. It never once felt as though I was just an added extra, sidelined from the real goings-on, a bit of a nuisance. She has gone above and beyond to try and show me as much as she can and to give me as many personally valuable experiences as she could. She made time for me, and made it such a comfortable environment for me to ask questions and learn more from her.

It’s amazing how much I was able to cover in that first week in the office. This included:
1. To research Wolseley so that that information could be used in a High Potential Assessment Event
2. To research companies’ existing Leadership Models
3. To design activities involving Positive Insight’s Strengths Cards, to be used in a Development Programme
4. To create a Development Plan
5. Create a presentation on coaching and mentoring, for trainee coaches, complete with workbooks and information packs
I found every project I was given to complete by Amanda varied and interesting. Once again she included ways, when she could, to involve elements of personal development. For example, I was to complete the Strengths Card exercises myself first. The best bit about the projects I worked on, was feeling as though it was valuable; that it will help Amanda and the other directors and might actually be used in the future. There is no better way to experience what it would be like to do a job, then to actually feel as though you are doing it. Amanda made me feel like I was doing this.

The second week working at Zircon was completely different from my first. I was lucky enough to have been given some very exciting opportunities. Including:
1. Attending a succession planning sales meeting
2. Attending the Profile:Match training with the Directors and Business Managers
3. Observing Julie Lee presenting an educational workshop on interview skills under a white label client
4. Spinnaker Sailing along with 24 of Zircons key clients
I couldn’t have asked for a better experience working at Zircon. It was not only incredibly informative and useful for my personal goals, but it was also exciting and a lot of fun. I really want to thank Amanda for having me, and doing such an amazing job at taking on a student. Everyone I was able to work with at Zircon – Sarah Green, Sally Castles and Julie Lee – were all wonderful. I think this is a testament to Zircon and Amanda. If you are a student reading this blog, all I can say is: working at Zircon is an opportunity not to be missed!

Eleanor Baker – Trainee Psychologist and Placement Student from Oxford University. September 2010.

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