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Lizzie's Guide to finding a placement

Finding a placement for your Sandwich Year or MBio Finding a placement for summer, your sandwich year or your MBio can be a daunting task, especially as the guidance surrounding applications, interviews, etc can be somewhat lacking... Trust me I know the feeling - I’m a 4th year student who secured a placement with UCB for my MBio in the last year. In this blog post, I will focus on the process of searching for a placement and the general application process, rather than how to write your CV or do well in interviews. But hopefully I can give some insight as someone who has been there and done that (last year) so to speak! Tip #1 – It might be summer for you, but companies don’t have a break! So many of my friends lost out on applying to big pharma companies such as GSK, AstraZeneca, etc because they didn’t realise just how early some applications open and close! This is why it is so important to have an up-to-date CV and cover letter template ready to go. These deadlines can be as early as August or September so the earlier you start preparing the better. The same applies for Christmas break – while a lot of companies DO shut down over Christmas and New Year, their holidays obviously aren’t the luxurious 4-5 weeks that we get at University! Definitely make sure to take a break and recuperate after Term 1, but just keep a casual eye out for placements just in case. Tip #2 – Don’t get stuck down the placement hunting rabbit hole! You know when you can’t sleep, it’s 3am and you’re watching those survival hut building videos on YouTube? Or you’re writing an essay and your laptop starts to sound like an airplane because you have 50 tabs open with various papers? Yeah... Don’t do that when searching for placements... It’s easy to underestimate just how stressful the SEARCHING side of the placement hunt is, when most people think interviews and CV writing is going to be the worst part. Make your life easier instead. Do your research early, before application deadlines start looming. Consider making a spreadsheet with a list of companies you want to apply for with links to their careers page, and possibly any deadline information that is available. That way, you can easily open your spreadsheet every few days to check if there have been any updates, without having to keep tabs open or bookmarked. Of course, don’t neglect to continue searching on LinkedIn, indeed.com (or other job sites) and company career sites. Not all companies will share details of their application window in advance so it’s always a good idea to check these sites regularly. But preparing anything that you can in advance will make applications so much easier, less stressful, and will allow you to track things much better. Tip #3 – A placement is a placement is a placement No, I haven’t lost my marbles whilst writing that. It’s a common misconception that if you’re looking for an MBio placement, you can’t apply for a “regular” placement. The truth is that they’re essentially the same thing. You can apply to any 12-month placement with a RESEARCH FOCUS (i.e.,

there is a scientific aim to the project which will allow you to generate and analysed data). Now obviously sometimes summer internships are called “summer placements” and that won’t be suitable for an MBio or Sandwich year, so avoid those – but even if a placement description asks for you to be in your sandwich year, there is no harm in applying anyway. Doing an MBio in Industry is not a universal option in all universities, and there will be a number of companies (yes, even big pharma like GSK) that will have never heard of it, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be open to hosting you as a student. If you’re not sure whether a placement description is suitable for an MBio, just apply anyway! You can always send the description of the placement to the Placement Officer (currently Marion Patel 2023/24) and ask for advice, but there’s no point faffing about and missing a deadline because you’re unsure. Worst case, you can always send a follow-up email to the HR/Careers department at the company, or access their careers portal in order to withdraw your application. Tip #4 – Save. The. Description!!! This is probably the most common thing to get caught out on when applying. When you apply, save the placement job description in a screenshot/word doc/etc! After the deadline, most companies take the application site down altogether, so you can no longer access the description. At first, I thought “It’s fine... they’ll probably send me a copy if I get asked for interview”... how wrong I was... Learn from my mistakes... save yourself the stress and the pain and just save the description for later. Tip #5 – Personalise your applications (sort of) It’s important to personalise your application based on each role and company you are applying for. Please, please, please do not waste your time editing your CV for each application you do – this will (and should) be the same for all of your applications. But writing a cover letter (which I would advise for all of your applications), it is an opportunity for you to show your passion and experience. In my experience, showing your enthusiasm for a job is just as if not more important than your skills and experience. And enthusiasm isn’t mass produced and cliché is it? I won’t tell you how to write your cover letter in that could be another entire blog post in itself – but I would prepare a rough template of your cover letters in advance. There will be some paragraphs that won’t change, e.g., your intro, skills, experience etc. But make sure where you talk about why you want the placement role and why you want to work at that company is individual to the application you are making (ESPECIALLY if you apply to multiple roles at the same company!). Use the job description and company values to create a personalised element of your cover letter. You might feel like you’re plagiarising their website but you’re not. Obviously don’t repeat things word for word but you can almost help to tick boxes for what they want to hear by rephrasing the description and demonstrating your strengths in these relevant areas. If you want to get even more in-depth when applying for a company, and it’s something you are GENIUNELY interest in, you could do a bit of research into the products that they offer and their research focuses. Commenting on something specific like this is sure to catch an employer’s eye! BUT DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK. This can easily backfire if you don’t know your stuff when it comes to the

product – it would be seriously bad to add this to a cover letter, but be unable to answer questions about it at interview. So just bare that in mind! And that pretty much wraps up my top tips when it comes to searching for a placement. Take care of yourself whilst juggling job-hunting, applications and university throughout this process. At the end of the day, your wellbeing comes first so make time for some regular self-care. My final piece of advice would be to not lose hope during this whole process. Over 6 months, you will likely apply to 30+ roles, possibly hear back from half of them if you’re lucky, and maybe make it to the final stage of interviews in a small few. There’s no easy way of saying this, but you will be rejected A LOT, even if you’re a brainiac 1st class student with tonnes of lab experience and lots of interesting extracurricular roles. Just keep swimming and always remember that it takes ONE YES for you to have a placement sorted for next year! :) I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for all of you! - Lizzie

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