Initiative, resilience, and teamwork

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Sophie, I live in Cheshire, and my degree was BSc (Hons) Genetics with Industrial Experience. I completed my placement at QIAGEN Manchester, a biotech company. After graduating, I worked for this organisation as a Research and Development (R&D) Technical Assistant for 6 months. I then moved to Cancer Research UK's Manchester Institute to work as a Scientific Officer in the Cancer Biomarker Centre, which led to me starting a PhD in the same group in September 2021.

How are initiative, resilience, and teamwork important in your current role?

Using your initiative is important regardless of whether you want a career in science or elsewhere. I was not asked to apply for the PhD that I am now doing. Instead I took the initiative to apply and speak to my supervisor about the opportunity. In the context of a career in science, it is always important to take initiative to read current scientific articles and share them with others, and to discuss implementing or trying novel methods.

Resilience is also important, particularly in science but also in lots of sectors in today’s job market in general. When things do not go well in the lab, I evaluate what could have gone wrong, and continue or repeat experiments rather than dwelling on the failure. A few months into my first job, my team was made smaller so everyone’s job was at risk of redundancy. My resilience helped me to get through this experience (along with lots of advice from the University of Manchester’s Careers Service!).

Finally, teamwork is vital in any role. Although I am doing a PhD, which most think of as independent study, it is important that I work in a team with my supervisors, other lab colleagues, and even external collaborators to get the most out of the experience and produce the best research I can.

How did you develop each of these skills during your degree?

I learned through my degree that opportunities to develop yourself do not just fall in your lap. You must take the initiative to learn about the experiences that are available to you, speak to peers and others, and put yourself out there to get the most out of university. I am particularly glad that I took the initiative to apply for the role of Peer Assisted Study Scheme (PASS) Coordinator, as it was a great opportunity to build my teamwork and leadership skills in my final year.

Applying for industrial experience opportunities also helped me to build resilience very quickly in my second year. I was not expecting to be rejected from so many opportunities, but by evaluating each application, using the Careers Service, and persevering, I secured a placement and learned many new skills that I still use today.

Furthermore, lots of group projects and posters helped me to develop my teamwork skills, but also by seeking opportunities outside of my course I enhanced my ability to work in different teams too. I volunteered with Girl Guiding UK in Didsbury during the latter part of my degree, which gave me the opportunity to work with people of different backgrounds to those on my degree course. These opportunities can be found through the University, or by researching local volunteering opportunities yourself.

How did this help you get your first graduate job?

I was fortunate enough to be invited to apply for a position at my industrial experience company after graduating. Without the resilience I had gained when applying for placements, I would never have built the contacts at this company that enabled me to return as a graduate. I believe one of the reasons I was invited back to the company was because I worked well within the team while on placement.

What were the main factors that influenced your choice of first graduate job?

My first job, and subsequent positions, have all been in or around Manchester. I chose those positions as the locations were convenient to me. The most important factor is that the work is interesting and the research I am doing will improve the lives of others.