BA Geography student Lizzie Augarde will be writing a number of posts for the blog during her placement year with NHS England, which she has just started. In this first posts she outlines how she landed her placement and shares her tips for other students who are, or will be, seeking placements.
Hi, I’m Lizzie and I’ve just started a 12 month placement working for NHS England in the Patients and Information Directorate: Medical and Nursing Analytical Team – in short, the team responsible for managing all the data related to hospitals and patients. I have just completed the second year of my BA Geography degree at the University of Leeds and have loved every minute of it, but I’m looking forward to spending this year doing something quite different.
What I’ll be doing
Primarily, NHS placement students are required to support any data analysis projects that go on within their team. I will be working with Excel and other software to process and analyse data and then present it in a way that is useful for the development of policy and improvement of NHS systems. I will also be taking on other responsibilities as they emerge, such as aiding the recruitment of the next year’s interns, and undertaking various training schemes.
How I found my placement
When I started second year, I knew I wanted to work in the public or voluntary sector but decided I would not be able to afford to conduct a full year’s voluntary work. If this sounds like you too, don’t worry, there are plenty of paid opportunities in the public sector you just need to root around hard enough! I searched on the university careers centre website and other websites like ratemyplacement.co.uk but ended up finding my placement on an obscure facebook page!
The application process
I completed an application form and a gruelling interview in November. A placement like mine, that involves keen understanding of statistics, seems like an unlikely choice for a human geographer. But I knew I was right for the job and had the skills necessary to do it well. Showing this in my interview was a challenge – make sure you do practice interviews! Recruit friends, family, tutors, anyone, they really help you make your answers clearer.
But I also had to demonstrate that I was interested in the placement. If you study a broad subject like geography, demonstrating how you are suited to a specific role can be tricky. I had to demonstrate that my degree made me right for the health sector so I discussed my modules studying health and population statistics, and delved back into the distant past to discuss a research project I did at A-level on HIV/AIDS. Things like this matter, make sure you have a number of key pieces of evidence to show you are interested in and right for the job.
So, my top tips for finding a placement:
- Only apply for jobs you’re really interested in. You will be doing that job for a year and employers can tell when you’re just applying for the sake of it. Apply for things you will enjoy doing and you’ll really get the most out of a placement.
- Do some serious digging on the internet. Look beyond the big names and well-known schemes. Lots of small companies and organisations provide opportunities if you search for them hard enough. And don’t be afraid of approaching a company who doesn’t advertise placements – a number of my fellow students this year have crafted placements of their own simply by approaching companies they wanted to work for.
- Do interview practice. Anticipate some possible questions and note down points you can make. Don’t go on and on about your gap year in Kenya – make sure you have a variety of things to talk about to demonstrate your interest.
- Make your degree specific to the job. Think about what skills you’ve gained from your studies and discuss how these make you right for the job. Remember that everyone else who is applying is also studying a degree so make yours stand out.
- Keep your chin up! Searching for placements is tricky and can be disheartening, but there’s so many opportunities out there so don’t give up!