The process of getting a placement can be really tough. There can be more stages of an application process than you thought were possible and it’s often your first ‘real’ work-related rejections. However, I can tell you first-hand that the bumps in the road along the way will be worth it. My placement year so far has been full of learning and there have been some incredible highlights.
Learning from the application process
In hindsight, a major learning point of my placement year happened before it even started – during the application process. Whilst maybe not a ‘highlight’ in the conventional sense – I didn’t jump for joy writing cover letters, and I certainly didn’t relish falling behind on lecture content to attend interviews – I can now appreciate the application experience for exactly that: the experience.
I juggled dozens of applications alongside second-year work. And although “We regret to inform you” seemed to become a phrase I was reading every week, I now feel more confident to apply for post-grad roles in my final year. I’ve already encountered most application stages I’ll be facing when applying to these – assessment centres, video interviews and online aptitude tests to name a few – at the time not much fun, but definitely valuable insight into what to expect.
A sense of pride in my work
My role is in the haematology Medical Affairs team within the Oncology Business Unit at Pfizer. Whilst this means I have been exposed to the devastating realities, and sometimes poor prognoses, of blood cancer, the impact I feel I am able to have in my role has been one of my year’s main highlights.
Granted, you can’t deny some have unfavourable opinions of the pharmaceutical industry, but ultimately, I’m working in a team that collectively hopes to improve and extend the lives of blood cancer patients. This gives me a sense of pride in my work that I now know is so important for me to seek in future employment. This will impact the applications and choices I make.
Time to explore
Another valuable highlight has been truly ‘free’ time. Whilst it may sound counter-intuitive to working full-time, unlike at university, your evenings and weekends are truly yours. When studying, there always seems to be more you can do – more reading, more revision, more practice questions – always something hanging over your ‘free’ time. In contrast, outside of the working day, I feel the time is truly mine.
This has meant more time to explore new hobbies and career paths. For example, I discovered the civil service fast stream and was then able to discuss it further with a colleague who previously oversaw its recruitment. Being able to research roles and take part in activities outside of work, such as volunteering, to gain skills and meet new people has been not only good fun but also helped me get ahead before my final year in terms of looking for prospective roles.
Making my mark
A key highlight of any placement year is the chance to leave your mark on the organisation through devising new initiatives and improving existing processes. It can be nerve-wracking to voice ideas in front of colleagues, particularly those in senior positions, but doing so means you gain confidence and can have a real impact.
Having the courage to contribute my thoughts resulted in one of my suggestions forming the basis for how Medical Affairs colleagues, across the Business Units, more regularly communicate key projects and learnings – and we’ve received some great feedback! Thinking back to that meeting, I almost didn’t contribute; even when I did, it was only following a hesitant statement of “This is probably a bad idea, but…”. But through this experience, I’ve gained more confidence to propose ideas. Not all of them are successful or implemented, but it allows me to explore solutions to problems and gain valuable feedback.
This year, I have been able to apply skills and knowledge from my degree to what I’ve seen to be truly worthwhile work. Each day I am so grateful I persevered with my applications. I would wholeheartedly encourage anyone who wants to gain valuable skills and experience to apply for a placement year.
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