Hi everyone! I’m Iona, and I study Social and Political Sciences with Philosophy at York. I’m now on my placement year at GSK. I’ve been working in the Communications and Government Affairs (CGA) department for five months now. It’s been a few months since I last reflected on my placement experience, so I thought I’d give you another update!
More about my placement year at GSK
Five months later, and I’ve (mostly) settled in! It took me a while to understand exactly what my team does and where I fit into it. CGA covers a lot, so it’s probably best if I try to explain what my team is responsible for first before I get into my job.
On the communications side, we do both internal and external comms: from employee engagement, staff events, internal social media and more; to running external social media accounts, communicating with the healthcare industry, politicians and media.
On the government affairs side, we identify political trends, and work with different government, health and pharmaceutical organisations to change the policy landscape.
So, where do I fit into all of this?
Most of the time, I’m doing internal communications. This means posting on social media, and reporting what the team are doing, including GSK’s leadership. I also take on ad-hoc jobs to support the smooth running of our team. I also get to do some external things; I was involved in organising a cancer campaign with a charity. I also monitor what’s happening in politics, and provide summaries for the team.
Basically, my role is very varied, and I have shorter projects as well as long-running ones. This means I work with lots of different people and get to learn about a range of things.
Reflections at the (almost) halfway point…
Using my degree
Before my placement year at GSK, I’d expected that some skills I’d learned at uni (like essay-writing, working to deadlines, etc) would be useful. I’ve also found that having a Social and Political Sciences degree has been a big advantage.
Inside the office
Firstly, having a basic understanding of British politics, and how policy is made, helped me understand how health policy can be influenced, and also what sort of political information my team might want. Knowing the subject means I can skim through information more quickly and pick out what I need.
Also, Social and Political Sciences students study modules from several departments, meaning we cover a broad range of topics. Although this makes our course more interesting, it means we have to switch between subjects depending on the day! This has been handy for me this year with all of the ad-hoc tasks I do. Being able to focus on one thing and pick up where I left off on something completely different means I can get things done quicker, and I’m not overwhelmed.
Learning new skills to take back for final year…
My placement year at GSK has developed skills I already had. I’ve also learned lots of new ones I’ll take back to my degree.
For one, I understand the external political and social environment much better – I’m particularly interested in this, so l’ve made it one of my goals for the year. I actively look out for health and social care information I’m interested in, especially related to health inequalities. I also know far more about the policy process, and even attended a civil-service event about policy last month. When I get back to York, I’ll use this contextual knowledge to support social policy modules.
Also, I’m part of a few employee groups – a disability confidence group and planetary health/sustainability group. My understanding of these issues is much better now, so l’m considering them as dissertation topics. With Social and Political Sciences, almost no topic is off limits for dissertations, so being able to explore my interests in depth has given me a better starting point for choosing one!
… and beyond
There are loads more skills I’ll take back to York with me, and a few I’ll use beyond my time at uni. For starters, being in a comms team has changed how I communicate – I’m better at being succinct. I’m always asking people for things, so it’s much easier if I’m clear with what I need the first time around!
We also communicate with large groups of people (eg, mass emails). Being clear means less confusion, which is key in any workplace.
I’ve also learned to be more assertive at work, which is something I’ve never been good at. I’ve always thought it was rude to chase people for things or suggest improvements, but this isn’t the case. My team is always open to suggestions, and no one has ever complained when I’ve chased them up about something. Being assertive and making sure you get what you need to do your job makes things smoother for everyone in all workplaces.
I could keep going – I’ve learned so much in this short space of time. I already feel like I’ve grown so much as a person during my placement year at GSK. When I get back to York, I’ll have loads of new skills to use!