How did I end up here? My Grad Scheme Journey
20 Jun 2017
Recently, there’s been a real buzz on the scheme around interview days, assessment centres and so on. This has made me stop to think about my Grad Scheme journey, and how I ended up in the NHS!
When I was in primary school, I wanted to be a dog, although I soon realised this wasn’t a very realistic career choice. But, as an animal lover, I was pretty determined to do something with animals, and decided I wanted to be a vet. However, this dream died a quick death, when my Mum pointed out that I’d have to put animals down as a vet, and that I was rubbish at sciences.
Fast forward to age fifteen, sitting my GCSE exams. By this point, I was pretty convinced I wanted to study art or fashion at university. This was until I set a piece of fabric on fire in my textiles exam, and made my textiles teacher cry because I’d ruined her incredibly expensive iron.
With that dream also out the window, I decided I still wanted to explore my creative side. I’ve always loved books, and I’m an avid reader. Consequently, studying English Literature at University seemed like a pretty sensible choice. That was, until, I got a C in my English Literature AS Level. Although it seems completely pathetic now, this was a shock to my system, as I’d never received a grade lower than a B. So at age sixteen, I felt as though I was left with few options and no idea what I wanted to do.
What do you do when you don’t know what you want to do? Study Philosophy of course! But after getting my A Level Grades, I decided, actually I didn’t want to study Philosophy at all, and ended up changing my degree to History, Philosophy and Politics (because why pick one subject when you could do three?!).
I tried many different extra-curricular activities. I worked as a Teacher at an international school every summer throughout University. Working as a teacher has given me an undying respect for teachers. I enjoyed teaching, but I didn’t have the patience to handle it as a full time job.
I also presented my own show on my university radio. I considered a career in radio for a while, but again, decided it wasn’t really for me. I love to talk, but I’m not actually that good at it. As the Grad Scheme has recently taught me, I’m an extrovert, and I do all my thinking out loud. Unfortunately, my brain seems to move faster than my mouth can, so I’m not especially articulate.
Because I was always interested in academia, I thought, maybe I could be an academic. But when my housemate pointed out several typos on the first page of my dissertation two hours before the deadline, I decided I probably wasn’t much of an academic either.
So in my third year of University, I was completely lost. I knew I could completely rule out careers in science, or finance, and that actually ruled out a lot. But I still had no idea what I wanted to do, and, somewhat randomly decided to apply for the NHS Grad Scheme.
During my final year of University, I experienced some of my own health problems, which led me to pop in and out of my GPs fairly often. In one appointment, I was feeling particularly tearful and frustrated. She tried to calm me down, and asked me what I was doing next year. I told her that I’d applied to work in the NHS, but I’d been wait listed for an interview. And she replied, ‘Well, that’s the biggest load of rubbish I’ve heard. You’re extremely clever, and always pleasant, and I bet you’d sort it right out.”
Weirdly, after multiple rejections from Grad Schemes, this affirmation gave me all the confidence that I needed. I continued to research the scheme, and I realised that a lot of my personal values and interests lay within the NHS. I was really pleased when I was taken off the wait list, and offered an interview. My interview went well, and during my first few months on the scheme I was actually recognised by my interviewer at a local conference! He told me that he couldn’t forget me because I was ‘refreshingly energetic’ on the day of the interview, which was really lovely feedback to hear (although he definitely confused ‘refreshingly energetic’ with ‘shaking, anxious, caffeine high’).
I’m skipping ahead a little, as the assessment day fell between my interview and the start of the scheme. At the end of the day when we were asked to reflect on our experience, I found myself thinking about all my previous failed career paths. I decided to just be honest, and said, “I’ve really enjoyed this, but ultimately, today was a test of how well suited this role is to me. So if it’s not suited to me, I’ll be disappointed, but I’ll be glad I at least tried it out.”
The week we were meant to hear back from the scheme, I heard nothing. I thought I had been rejected. I tried to get in touch with the scheme, but they informed they couldn’t give me any information. Eventually, a day before the deadline to accept a post on the scheme, I sent, (probably quite a blunt email) which essentially read something like ‘can you please just tell me I haven’t got the job, here’s my mobile.’ I was then quite embarrassed when my phone rang, and a voice said ‘Beth, we’ve been trying to get through to you for a week, you’ve got a job!’ (they’d been dialling the wrong mobile number).
So here I am. As I feel like this post has had a lot of focus on my negative qualities, I’d like to point out that it wasn’t the purpose of it at all. My ‘failures’ have taught me a lot about my strengths – I’m resilient, I like to try new things and take on new challenges, I work better in fast paced environments, and whilst I’m not articulate, I’m still energetic and personable.
My scheme journey has taught me to acknowledge my strengths and weaknesses, and has built my confidence. This time last year, I never dreamed that I’d be good enough to be one of the top graduate schemes in the country, and I’m sure that many of the current applicants feel the same. It’s strange how having some self-belief can push you a long way!
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about life on the application process or life on the scheme, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @bethany_carty