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The University of Southampton
Public Policy|Southampton

A placement with Hampshire County Council

Allison Noble
Allison Noble

In November 2020, I began my three-month online placement with Hampshire County Council, working as a member of the Research and Insights team. The placement was part of an ongoing arrangement between the County Council and the Public Policy Unit and the University of Southampton. I was extremely excited and nervous to begin this short-term journey, as I had never used my research skills to work outside of my comfort zone like this and I wanted to grow both my confidence and skill set. I joined the council at an extremely busy time when they were facing community issues and future obstacles related to the coronavirus, meaning that there was never a dull moment or a lull in work tasks to complete.  
Work Experience 
During those three months, I quickly found out one huge distinction between the world of academia and local government is the pace at which things (e.g., projects or tasks) must progress. Gone was the luxury of weeks/months to write, draft, rethink and re-do. This was partially due to the urgent nature and timelines of the projects that we were working on. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, I sometimes struggled with the idea that my work was not ‘perfect’ due to the speedy nature of the job. However, I did find that towards the end of the placement, I had so much more confidence in the work that I was producing at speed, and I can only assume that it came from the excellent feedback and communication skills of the team I was working in!   
Regardless of this small confidence issue, I did enjoy the challenge of creating and brainstorming ideas under pressure. The projects I participated on during my placement included helping to research and create insights that addressed the following: 
Messaging for the Covid-19 ‘student-travel-window’ at Christmas 
Messaging for Covid-19 family protocols at Christmas  
Encouraging vaccine uptake amongst hesitant communities 
I additionally participated in running focus groups, creating various presentations based on extensive desk research, and examining pre-existing research to inform new insight projects. I especially enjoyed moderating the focus groups, as this let me work closer with other team members and allowed me to develop my qualitative skillset.  
Overcoming Limitations 
There was one point in my placement where I hit an obstacle. I was not able to complete a task due to a limit in my abilities and skills that I had not expected. As an academic this was extremely frustrating for me and I found myself doubting my abilities as a researcher. I felt like a failure and my confidence was temporarily knocked. However, after reaching out to the senior researcher (and my liaison) at the council, I was quickly reassured that this was a valuable experience to my personal development and that it was ok. This experience led to me really reflect on my attitude towards work ethic, success, and how to deal with experiences of failure, (which unfortunately, are inevitable in life). However, within the bubble of academia and in my own head, failure is not always regarded so warmly as it is seen as the opposite of progression. Therefore, I am glad I had this experience when I did, as it has only helped to inform my reactions to obstacles/mini failures since. 
One thing I would like to highlight was the interesting experience I had trying to balance the work of my PhD alongside the placement, as I had chosen not to suspend my studies. In reflection, I would recommend that future placement students suspend their PhD studies, if able to do so. This will allow you to fully immerse yourself into your placement guilt free and absorb all of the valuable experience available from the placement. However, balancing my studies did not take away from what an amazing experience it was to undertake this placement or my enjoyment of it. I look forward to engaging more with the Public Policy Unit in the future and can only thank them for allowing me to have this wonderful opportunity.  


Allison Noble, Web Science PhD Researcher at the University of Southampton.

Find out more about Allison's policy impact work
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