General Management

My most powerful tool in the NHS Grad Scheme application process…

Posted by Leanne Ashmead, 04 Nov 2016

If you had asked me a year ago what I thought about social media, my response would have been something along the lines of "a waste of time". I would probably have swiftly moved the conversation on to something different! I am not and never have been very "techy" - computers and anything related to technology take me right out of my comfort zone. I was at school at the time when schools had about 6 computers between all the students and the PC was only just entering homes up and down the country. The Internet was dial up and made a funny noise I can still remember clearly now! Had I been at school earlier it would have been totally acceptable for me to play the ignorance card when it came to technology and any later, I would probably be a computer whizz. But, I was in an odd sort of grey area where I felt it was a bit unacceptable to admit that I knew nothing at all! I have to confess that until recently I have never really had the need to grapple with my technological demons; that was until I applied for the NHS Grad Scheme...

The application form was easy, very straight forward in fact. The scariest bit for me by far was a tick box! A tiny little tick box to say that I followed @NHSGradScheme on Twitter. Sorry, but what on earth is the point of Twitter I thought to myself! What has Twitter got to do with applying to become a future leader of our NHS? I dutifully added "Figure out what on earth Twitter is" to my Grad Scheme application preparation to-do list, ticked the box and secretly hoped the whole thing might just go away... Little did I know that Twitter would have everything to do with my ability to secure a place on the scheme and begin my career in NHS leadership! 

One day (admittedly after hearing I had made it through the online test stage and had been offered an interview!) I realised I just couldn't put off this Twitter thing any longer. I did a bit of Googling to find out what it was all about and decided to go boldly where many had gone before and sign up for a Twitter account. Easy. There I was, @leanne_ashmead with a Twitter newbie egg for a profile picture. How apt, eggs, new life... I figured out how to follow @NHSGradScheme as instructed and felt a huge sense of accomplishment and oddly, connectedness.

I suddenly had an idea of what life might be like on the scheme, reading Tweets from current trainees that had been Re-tweeted and this made me more determined than ever to secure a place on the scheme. It took me a little while to figure out what Re-tweeting was and why I might want to do it, but that soon became a very powerful tool as a total Twitter dummy. I also found the heart shaped "like" feature very helpful as I navigated my way through hundreds of enthusiastic Tweets and started to find my feet in the world of Twitter.

Over a number of days and weeks I gradually started following people who popped up on the @NHSGradScheme Twitter feed. I had the chance to read many articles, infographics and opinions posted by others which really helped shape my preparation for my Grad Scheme interview. Suddenly I was in touch with real, live NHS employees in various roles who could offer an insight no amount of Guardian reading could ever make up for. That isn't to say the media isn't helpful, it really is, and in fact the Guardian had a very timely "This is the NHS" focus around the time of my interview for the scheme. 

One day I was feeling particularly brave and added a profile picture to my Twitter account and shortly after, I plucked up the courage to post my first ever Tweet.

At this point, I felt a little daunted about tweeting as I didn’t feel I had much to bring to the table in terms of knowledge or experience worth sharing.  I didn’t let this stop me, however, and opted for the more energetic tweets about my enthusiasm for joining the scheme.  All the while I continued following people, continued reading and continued learning.  Almost everything I knew about the current challenges and changes facing the NHS at my interview, I had learnt through my use of the Twitter platform.  I also felt supported in my preparation for interview, as current trainees, alumni of the scheme and other NHS staff encouraged me at every opportunity.  This was a huge source of motivation for me throughout the process and particularly at moments when I doubted myself. 

 

It was hugely inspirational when I announced on Twitter that I had passed the interview stage and got through to the assessment centre and was re-tweeted and replied to by an NHS Chief Executive!

By this point, I had to admit to myself that my previous assumptions about social media, and Twitter in particular, were wrong.  Not only was I finding it helpful and informative, I was enjoying using it and also building networks at this early stage.  I will tell you all about my orientation in a future post, but I have certainly already found the networks I formed on Twitter to be very important, just 4 weeks into my time on the scheme.

Twitter continued to play a focal role in my preparation for the assessment centre and by this point the excitement was rising… I was really only separated from my dream career by one more assessment…

Here is a photo of all the candidates at the assessment centre on the day I attended, shared on Twitter by the Grad Scheme:

Well, after a very long 3 weeks and CONSTANTLY checking Twitter for updates from the Grad Scheme, I found out that I had been offered a place on the scheme!!!  I absolutely couldn’t believe it!  I was so stunned that I didn’t actually manage to Tweet about it until the late evening, but when I did, I was absolutely inundated by tweets of congratulations!

So in summary, how was Twitter my most powerful tool in the NHS Grad Scheme application process and what have I learnt?

  • The Graduate Scheme uses Twitter to update candidates throughout the recruitment process.  Who wouldn’t want to know the second there is some exciting news?!
  • I had instant access to interesting and helpful articles shared on Twitter by very senior NHS leaders.
  • Twitter helped me maintain my focus and motivation throughout the application process.
  • I have learnt to keep an open mind about new ways of learning and I know this will benefit me on the scheme as I continue along my development journey.
  • I have become acutely aware of the importance of technology and data for the future of the NHS and I will continue to fight my technological demons to become the best future leader I can possibly be!
  • My use of Twitter confirmed to me that the NHS would be the ideal place for me to work, surrounded by people who feel passionate about similar issues and are connected by a shared purpose and set of values.
  • The perceived “impossible” is really only a series of small, possible steps.  If I can learn how to use Twitter, I can learn how to be an Excel whiz!
  • I have learnt the importance of forging networks.  The future of our health service relies on a connectedness that we have never seen before, to enable sharing of best practice and knowledge to overcome challenges.  Let’s harness the digital solutions available to us to help achieve this.

So, while I still have plenty of Twitter optimising to do (I am really looking forward to a scheme event in November about social media!) and am by no means at the end of my social media journey, I can’t encourage candidates enough to get on Twitter now!  Go on, get out of your comfort zone, create a Twitter account and follow @NHSGradScheme now!  And for my shameless Twitter plug… you can also follow me to get an insight into life on the scheme @leanne_ashmead  Good luck to all those shortly starting their applications for the 2017 intake!

Coming soon… In at the deep end – I will tell you all about the most incredible four weeks I have just had on Orientation!

Leanne Ashmead

Leanne Ashmead

2016 intake

After several gap years living and working in Paris, I studied Biology with Science and Society at the University of Manchester. I have always felt called to a career in the NHS but was unsure which role I would be most suited to. When I became aware of the Graduate Management Training Scheme I knew instantly in my heart it was the right path for me! In my free time I enjoy being outdoors in the Devon countryside with my husband and young daughter.

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