Charles River Laboratories
Nicole Johnston (pictured right, with her employer) was one of the successful students in the 2015 Life Sciences CV competition. She told us about her amazing experience, and provides some top tips for other students.
What is your background?
Like most, I went straight from school to university, so my 6th year was based upon subjects that would benefit my course. The problem with that was that I wasn’t sure what course I wanted to do until my UCAS form had to be handed in, so my subjects were a bit diverse. However, I am glad to say that I picked a science route, and I am currently in my 4th year studying Forensic Biology at Edinburgh Napier.
Why did you apply for the CV Competition 2015?
I knew that if I wanted a job within the science industry I needed to do something that would gain me valuable experience and give me something that would stand out on my CV. Applying for a placement had been an idea for 3rd year, and when I heard about the CV competition at a networking day at university, I thought it was ideal as it gave me the opportunity to apply for 3 different placements through the one organisation. It actually worked out better as Charles River had 3 places available so in a sense I was applying to placements through one provider, which saved the stress of not only coming up with a good enough CV, but also not having to find the companies on my own (as I wouldn’t have the slightest idea where to start!)
What have you learned?
My placement gave me that kick up the bum that university doesn’t - it can lure you into a false sense of security. I thought due to my course providing more lab practice and gave me a familiarisation with GLP that I would be a bit more prepared for labs outside university, but I was wrong. University doesn’t prepare you for industry, it gives you the basics you need but not the independence. At university you have your step by step guide with all the reagents prepared and presented in front of you along with all the equipment needed... which, when in the real world, you don’t get.
This is what has benefitted me the most, getting to apply all the skills I knew but gaining the independence to develop them further on my own.
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to current students?
If the opportunity arises, definitely apply for placement. It is so worth it. The skills and knowledge that you learn will only benefit you more at university and for jobs in the future. It also makes you aware of what a good CV should contain. The placement makes you stand out and shows employers that you gave up an entire summer to work hard in a role that is totally new to you, in order for you to develop your skills within your field. It shows initiative, as this is optional. Your university doesn’t make you apply, it’s all down to you.