Finally, I secured my placement!!!

It has been 2 weeks since my last blog, hope you are well! Sorry for not blogging last week since I was busy with all the PLACEMENT stuff and EXAMS… Second year of biomedical science is tough, and I have to juggle placement applications and studies. I have even more exams this semester. Ultimately- PHEW… Everything is over for this semester.

This week, I would like to share my experience in applying for placement. If you are applying a sandwich course in University of Surrey (which I really recommend you to choose a sandwich course), you will probably be benefitted.

First and foremost, why are we encouraged to apply for a placement? By and large, placement provides a perfect opportunity to gain skills and work experience specific to our subject in order to increase our employability. More importantly, it allows us to get a taste of an industry, thus we can make a better decision about our future career choices. For me, the main reason is to find out whether an industry or academia is the career path right for me.

Therefore, I started preparation during last summer. I wrote and modified my CV, and searched online for placement opportunities that are usually open for sandwich course students. In September and October, I started to fill in and submit the application forms for my preferred placement opportunities. However, the application process is not that simple. For example, to apply for positions in GlaxoSmithKline (GSK, a globally renowned pharmaceutical company), I had to pass in an online aptitude/ability test first to be eligible to continue applying. Then, I had to answer many questions related to my strengths and passion of working in GSK in the application form to get into the final assessment centre. The process took me 2 months – so do prepare early since we will be busy if we gonna attend lectures and submit assignments at the same time. In addition, we might need to ask our personal tutor and programme director to write recommendation letters for our application. This takes time too as professors are much busier than us.

Normally, we will get an invitation email for assessment centre or interview in November and December. I applied for placements in Pfizer, GSK and the Francis Crick Institute. Fortunately, I got into the final round of interview in GSK and Francis Crick Institute. Therefore, I had no choice but to skip lectures to attend the assessment centre. Besides, I had to prepare for the interviews as well, hence I signed up for many presentation and assessment centre workshops organized by the Employability and Career Centre. As the career centre is mentioned, I am very grateful for the advisors of the centre that offered me valuable advice and guidance. Otherwise, I would be so stressful and helpless in my placement application. Throughout these three months, I have booked several appointments with the advisors for advice on my CV and some potential interview questions. In addition, I had a mock interview with them. They gave me some tips to manage my nerves during interviews as well. Their timely guidance really equipped me with sufficient confidence and competence to excel in the interviews. I really appreciate their help.

Surrey Pathfinder is a very useful tool to search for placement/job opportunities and book appointments with career advisors.
There are tons of placement advertisements on Surrey Pathfinder 🙂

Finally, I am so lucky that I got the offer from the Francis Crick Institute, which is the largest biomedical laboratory in Europe. The moment I received the offer, I broke down in tears, as 3 months of efforts finally paid off, I was so RELIEVED.  If I still couldn’t secure a placement, I would have to continue apply and apply for other opportunities, that would be really time-consuming. However, the application process does not end at this step. After I accepted the offer, I am currently waiting my employability contract to secure my placement- there will be more paper work required. Yeah, I now realize that applying for a placement is a long yet challenging journey, but it is actually worth doing.

The Francis Crick Institute
The main entrance of the Francis Crick institute.

On the other hand, some suggestions – prepare your CV in advance and carry out an excellent time management when the term starts, since you would need to sit for many exams, submit assignments, attend lectures, and be active in your society while you are applying for a placement. Moreover, you should have a strong determination and motivation to get a placement, because some of my course mates gave up applying as they think that they don’t have enough time to juggle placement and studies, especially during the exam period in November and December.

Overall, although the application process is tough, I did learn many transferable skills that increase my employability, such as presentation skills, good teamwork, communication skills, time management skills and stress management skills. More importantly, I know myself better now- I realise my future goals, strengths and weaknesses. This has definitely improved my personal development as it prompts me to adopt some strategies to overcome my weaknesses, and set short-term goals to achieve my dreams. Anyway, I hope that my experience could give an idea about placement and how to apply for a placement.

Today (Friday) is the last day of the semester, everyone seems very excited for the Christmas break, most of my friends have already flew back to their home countries. However, I will be staying here for Christmas, so stay tuned for my blog xx That’s a wrap for today, see you next week! Have a lovely Christmas!!!