My Year In Industry (Chapter 1: Edinburgh-side)

I didn’t expect it to happen. And yet happen it did.

I never thought that I would be able to make the grade for a Med Chem internship as part of my undergraduate degree program. Way back at the start of the academic year, we’d been assembled and given an introduction to the Year In Industry option: the companies recruiting, the types of jobs on offer, and how to go about obtaining them. There were two options for those interested in big pharmaceutical work: Med Chem or Analytical. We were told that the Med Chem jobs were highly competitive and you needed A-grades in your examinations to obtain one of those. Analytical vacancies could be filled by people with a B-grade. From what I heard, the Med Chem sounded fun, but I knew fine well that my grades were in the B-range, so I modified my ambitions down to Analytical.

This was early Autumn of 2009. It all looked pretty good, to be honest. The School of Chemistry’s vacancy database was crammed full with exciting jobs with important companies. Representatives came to give presentations, and we attended for the free pizza and food, then chatted with our friends afterwards about our ambitions. I got a trip down to Macclesfield near Manchester to marvel at the AstroZeneca site and submit myself for an interview. More placements get cropping up and I just kept applying.

The collective mental state of Year In Industry applicants in Winter 2009

Then we hit winter. The sheaths of applications I had fired off had all disappeared into the ether. Companies were silent. We knew of a few students who had received job offers, but most of the 40+ chemists who had been eager at the start of the academic year had now lost hope and/or interest. We knew that this wasn’t a good time to be a business, but we hadn’t realized just how much of the internship recruitment was going to be cut back.

It came around to February. In other blog posts another time I will rant about the Chem 3 year and the horrific things it did to me psychologically: here I will simply say that by the middle of the second semester I’d resigned myself to NOT getting a placement, and simply sticking it out in Edinburgh “in-house” next year. The last internship vacancy I applied for came up late onto the vacancy board: I wasn’t making a last-ditch attempt so much as enabling peace of mind. I’d apply for this last vacancy, since it would probably be the last one advertised, and then I could say that I’d tried my hardest and…well, it wasn’t good enough. See you in September, folks.

Waiting for the next set of job vacancies to be posted online

What I didn’t expect was to be made a job offer a few days later. Like…seriously? You want to employ ME? Gosh, it seems like they did. Even as I shot off an email to my parents looking for a stamp of approval, I knew which way I was going to go. I simply had to give them a yes.


Go after what you’re passionate about, even if you think that’s over-ambitious.

I told myself that They’d told me I shouldn’t bother applying for Med Chem jobs…so I applied for the Analytical jobs instead. I knew I would gain major benefits from an Analytical job – but the role descriptions didn’t GRAB me. Med Chem was something I had an unfeigned interest in. I suspect that what happened as a result was that my Analytical applications were mediocre and so-so: heart not exactly in it. When I went for broke and applied to the Med Chem job I was able to sound genuinely interested in the position and organic/medicinal chemistry in general. I think that gave my application a boost that the grades and generic Personal Statement comments never could. If you want a placement/job but don’t quite have the “ideal grades”, I’d advise you to give it a shot regardless.

Don’t give up. Just don’t. Be the last one standing.

Had the final vacancy been more contested than it was…things would probably have been different. As it was, most people had either found placements or realized that they weren’t so keen on searching/what was available. I’d advise against losing hope, and aim to stick it out until the competition has faded.


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