Finding a graduate scheme
It was whilst I was attempting to write my biochemistry dissertation that I discovered the career path that I had been looking for. It was certainly lucky for me that I was distracted by an email advertising the application deadline for the Cancer Research UK graduate scheme.
Although I had never fully considered a career in the charity sector, in hindsight I realise everything that I needed and wanted from a job was encompassed in this particular scheme.
Coming from a scientific background, I have always been fascinated by the complexity of the human body, especially at the cellular level. It was Cancer Research UK’s core purpose and vision that initially attracted me to the scheme. Although I had ruled out a research based career long ago, to have the privilege to stay close to world-class cancer research was incentive enough.
Having spent my university industrial placement at Johnson & Johnson, I knew that I enjoyed working in a professional business environment that offered great employee development opportunities. This was something that the Cancer Research UK scheme matched with ease.
Applying to Cancer Research UK
The application and selection process was highly rigorous, and the competition fierce. Over 1,300 applicants competed for just seven places. I feel extremely privileged to work with such capable colleagues. The tight-knit support network that is created between the graduates is also invaluable to me.
Twelve graduates, including myself, are currently employed on the Fundraising, Marketing and Communications (FMC) programme, and a further six graduates are on the Corporate and Scientific Services scheme. Both schemes offer graduates experiences in a four different areas of the organisation, rotating on a six monthly basis.
The FMC scheme places graduates across three different directorates in a variety of areas; from Local Supporter Fundraising and Special Events to Policy and Public Affairs. Placements tend to change year on year, based on both organisational need and graduate project opportunities. The result of which means that graduates are given high level, often strategic projects, which are critical in moving the organisation forward.
I have broken down my experiences so far into two sections, which represent the different placements I have worked in:
Placement One – Radical Innovation
Day to day life in the Radical Innovation department varied hugely. I worked on one main project, which involved generating fundraising ideas that specifically appealed to the male competitive supporter.
This was a highly challenging role, as many of the different routes I explored had previously been tried and tested. My work involved running workshops and brainstorm sessions, conducting consumer research, as well as estimating start up and running costs towards the end of the project. Although I worked on one main project for the majority of my time in Innovation, I was always being thrown into a variety of different tasks and challenges.
For example, I organised, co-ordinated and facilitated the team away day, created an international scouting network and was also involved in the organisation of several external events.
What I enjoyed most about being part of the Innovation team, was that I was given the freedom and responsibility to shape my project. The original brief was very broad, and although this proved difficult and somewhat stressful at the beginning, in the long run I believe it really helped to develop my core project management skills.
Placement Two – Patient Information
I have recently started my second placement working in a marketing based role in the Patient Information team. Here I am involved in marketing our free patient information services to the public. Again, work varies on a week by week basis. One week I may be attending a Volunteering conference to promote our services, and the next I could be presenting our work to regional retail teams.
As well as our placement responsibilities, there are always additional opportunities cropping up that graduates can take advantage of. I recently worked on a week-long project, filming and editing a short motivational DVD which was played at the fundraising end of year review. Other graduates have also had great experiences, for example, some have volunteered at our exclusive Emeralds & Ivy ball, organised departmental trips to the Race for Life and worked on our Cancer Awareness Roadshow.
I’ve been on the graduate scheme for eight months now, and I must say, I’m really enjoying it. I realise I’ve painted a rather idyllic picture of the scheme; but I’m not saying it’s all rosy – as with any job, there are the day to day tasks that need to be completed, and stressful deadlines that need to be met.
I feel the most valuable aspect of working for Cancer Research UK is that ultimately, we are all working together towards a common goal – to beat cancer. Now that’s a reason to get up in the morning.