Finding a good placement related to a life science course can be tough. I remember when I started applying, all that seemed to be out there that was related to my course was all your big brands, such as GSK, Unilever and Johnson & Johnson, and even then, plenty of them were specific to courses like biomedical science or biochemistry and nothing seemed targeted for neuroscience. From the outside it seemed like the NHS only offered short spells of work experience, and nothing like what I would need from a placement year, so I was then stuck in a place of having been through plenty of interviews and assessment centers to be at the end of it all with nothing. However, I would urge you all to try applying speculatively! It sounds daunting, putting your name out there to a company or organisation who aren’t actively advertising but it can land you with the most amazing experience, especially if you offer to work for free.
I wrote to my local NHS hospital, who have their own NIHR Research Facility, and asked if they would be willing to have me work alongside their Neurosciences team for my placement year. If I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting a response, or thought that there was no way the NHS would have capacity for a student for a year, never mind during a pandemic! But, after lots of forwarding e-mails to education leads and team managers, I was able to secure my placement working for them. I took on a role similar to that of a pre-existing research role, called a Clinical Trials Support Officer, and since I was the first student they had taken into the department, I had the opportunity to tailor my placement towards what I wanted to do and what I felt would benefit me within the department. Obviously, with the pandemic I was limited in what clinical tasks I could complete as being patient-facing was not suitable for a large portion of my placement, where there was a national lockdown in place. However, being a key worker for the NHS meant that I was still able to continue my placement uninterrupted and gain more experience in areas such as research study design and data entry.
Ultimately, I think applying speculatively for this placement has given me a much broader and more valuable experience than I could have expected, and will make my CV stand out since it will be unlike any placement before! Applying for a role this way has really improved my confidence and made me realise not to be scared of what’s out there, and instead go out and grab it; the worst you could get is a ‘no’ in an e-mail, which I got plenty of, but the best could be a completely new and unique placement experience!
Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions about applying speculatively as I would be happy to help! firstname.lastname@example.org 😊
Written by Emily Oddy
Current Placement Student, BSc Neuroscience