By Rachel Argo, work experience student at the Society of Biology
I am a Biochemistry undergraduate student at the University of Bristol and have just come to the end of a 12 month industrial placement with GlaxoSmithKline. Bristol’s Biochemistry with Study in Industry degree was one of the first UK degrees to achieve accreditation by the Society of Biology; the Society has now accredited bioscience courses at 7 UK institutions. I didn’t know what I wanted to do after my degree but I figured that a year in industry would enable me to see what was out there.
The first step was to get my CV up to scratch. It was quite different tailoring this for a ‘real science job’ as opposed to other positions I have obtained in the past. In many ways the application process was similar to that of a graduate job, there were online application forms, online tests and interviews. I also wrote speculatively to smaller biotech companies on the off-chance that they would be interested in hosting a placement student. This approach paid off as even though I secured a placement quite early on, I had replies from a couple of companies asking if I was still looking for a placement.
For anyone thinking of applying for a year in industry I have some top tips for you:
1) Sort your CV out early and get it checked by your university’s careers service.
2) Apply to lots of positions and remember that writing speculatively, although time-consuming, could pay off.
3) Check out potential interview questions and think about some examples for competency based questions e.g. ‘describe a situation when you worked as a team to solve a problem’.
4) Make the most of your year– get involved and talk to people from lots of different departments.
It’s been a privilege to have had the opportunity to learn from some of the best scientists in their field and gaining practical experience of lab techniques that I had previously learned about in lectures has been really rewarding. Having only had Saturday and summer jobs in the past it was a new experience going into a full-time role for an extended period of time. It has also been different working a 9-5 day Monday to Friday and having evenings and weekends free from revision, essays and assignments! This took a while to get used to but it’s safe to say I enjoyed this freedom. I’ve also discovered that motivation can come in forms other than exam marks; at work motivation came from things like learning how to do something new in the lab, feedback from colleagues and presenting data.
Having a year away from the university bubble and earning a salary has also taught me some things about the real world. For example about the joys of tax, what life is like not having the plentiful 20 weeks of uni holidays and how it feels spending your own money (i.e. not Student Finance’s!). The year has flown by and I would 100% recommend to anyone considering doing a year in industry placement to take the opportunity. The work experience and connections you can make will be invaluable and hopefully you will find it enjoyable too. My year in industry report is written (sitting in a brown envelope ready to hand in!) and I am looking forward to returning to Bristol for the final year of my course later this month.