Find out how Psychology students Lucy and Mayur landed their placements at Bradford Institute for Health Research. They share some useful tips on how to approach the application process and get relevant experience for research-based positions.
About the placement:
Mayur: Lucy and I have been working as Research and Implementation Assistants since joining the Bradford Institute for Health Research in September. Our work in the Quality and Safety department mainly consists of participating in a number of projects to improve patient safety in the NHS. Even though we both come from a Psychology degree, this placement has helped us to further explore the technicalities behind conducting research; doing things such as conducting questionnaires, systematic reviews, scoping and grey literature reviews, transcribing interviews, writing study protocols, attending focus groups and managing the department website. There have also been opportunities to attend lectures and conferences in Leeds, Harrogate and Oxford.
Previous experience and why we applied:
Lucy: I chose to do an industry placement year to help me decide if research was something I would enjoy as a career, as outside of the course it is difficult to gain research experience. I also knew that working for a year would teach me skills that would be valuable in any career. The application process involved writing a CV and cover letter, before an in-person interview. The careers centre checked my CV and cover letter a few times before applying. This was really useful as they helped me tailor my CV for the role and gave me advice on writing a cover letter as I didn’t know where to start!
Research experience is difficult to come across, but I managed to gain some by taking part in a Research Experience Scheme for Undergraduate Students (RESUS) project that are offered in the School of Psychology. I worked directly with a lecturer analysing and interpreting real data, writing short reports, and presenting my ideas in face-to-face meetings. I would recommend doing a RESUS project to anyone looking for research experience as it only took a short amount of time a week, and was something that I used to show my enthusiasm for research and demonstrate skills in my application. As I didn’t have much interview experience, I found it useful to have the RESUS project to refer to as an example of my skills.
Mayur: I chose this placement for a number of reasons; for one, I think that it is really helpful to get some real experience before graduating to get a flavour of what you may be signing up for post-university. Another reason is that the skills you gain on placement help to refine you as a person, because you will most likely be out of your comfort zone when you turn up – knowing how well you adapt to new situations will be helpful later on. As far as preparation for getting this placement goes, I went through a very similar process to Lucy; the careers centre was really good at giving me pointers when it came to my CV and interview preparation. As far as experience goes, I was also involved in a RESUS project, where I learnt how to debrief participants and collect consent forms. My other experience is split between holding committee positions on societies and volunteering for Teddy Bear Hospital – all experience is valuable, for me, these really help with the interpersonal aspects of doing research.
Lessons learnt and things we have enjoyed:
Lucy: I have really enjoyed the placement so far. It’s a great insight into all the different aspects and stages of research. The whole department are friendly and welcoming, making you feel like part of the team. I have learnt so many different research skills that I wouldn’t have gained through the psychology course alone. I have also gained practical skills, from becoming comfortable making regular phone calls, sharing my opinion in department meetings, and actually managing to wake up at 7am every day!
Mayur: Since working here, not only have I reinforced skills that I learnt in university, I’ve picked up more along the way. It’s like being thrown in the deep end; you don’t really know what’s coming as everything is so new. So now that first term is over, I am happy to say that I’ve come a long way since starting. Small tasks like writing up questionnaires online have helped me gain confidence in skills I already have whereas involvement in a systematic review, a larger project has taught me brand new skills. All in all, even though placement can be hard at some points, it is definitely worth it for the experience.
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