In the last 18 months healthcare and pharmaceutical companies have been more prominent than ever - but what is it like to start your career at one of these global organisations? Joshua Carney from GSK provides the insights in this episode of Future You
In order of first appearance:
- Dan Mason - editorial manager, Prospects
- Joshua Carney - early talent attraction specialist, GSK
Dan Mason: Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies have been at the forefront of all our minds over the last year in the fight against COVID-19. But what's it like to start your graduate career at one of these vast multinational organisations? Find out in this episode of Future You.
Hello, and welcome again to Future You, the podcast from graduate careers experts Prospects, here to help you achieve your career goals. I'm Dan Mason and this episode features a conversation with Joshua Carney, from the healthcare giant GSK. Now, working at one of these really huge global organisations is something that a lot of students and graduates aspire to. And if you're one of those people, then Josh's insights here are well worth a listen as it can be quite daunting trying to navigate all the different options, finding out what's available, and understanding where you'll fit into this enormous organisational structure. We discuss the range of graduate programmes on offer at GSK, from HR and finance through to engineering and R&D. And we also touch on topics such as application processes, why you shouldn't worry too much if your CV is a bit light on work experience due to the pandemic, and how a huge company like this promotes diversity and inclusion as well. So let's get started. Here's Josh to introduce himself.
Joshua Carney: Hello, my name is Joshua Carney. I work for GSK. And my role is early talent attraction specialist. So my role focuses on how we're advertising our roles, how we're recruiting and attracting students to our Future Leaders graduate programmes, our placement programmes, our apprenticeships, and anything for students right at the very beginning of their career. So yeah, thanks very much for having me.
Dan Mason: Brilliant. Well, thanks for joining us. And for anyone who doesn't know then could you just give us a bit of a quick overview of what GSK is as an organisation?
Joshua Carney: Sure. So GSK is one of the largest healthcare companies in the world. So the organisation focuses on pharmaceutical products, so it makes those kind of life saving medicines. It's also one of the largest vaccines companies in the world, and also makes consumer healthcare products. So those are the products that you maybe have used yourself seen in supermarkets or Boots, things like Aquafresh, like Sensodyne toothpaste, like Panadol, loads of household names are all made by GSK. So quite a wide range of healthcare products are made by the company. And our head office, so we're a UK based company, our head office is where I typically work, not there today, but that's located in West London.
Dan Mason: So like you say, a really large organisation, can you tell us a bit, in a bit more detail about the opportunities that you have there for graduates in particular?
Joshua Carney: Yeah, so our best known kind of option, and a programme for graduates is called the Future Leaders programme. So the Future Leaders programme is a kind of structured graduate programme across a variety of different areas within GSK. So we've got Future Leaders programmes within areas like technology, various different strands of engineering, withing research and development and lots of different options on our kind of business side of things. So within finance, HR, procurement, a variety of other areas as well. So they're rotational programmes. So a student or graduate would choose the area, the function of GSK, and the programme they'd like to apply to, they'd come in on that programme and do various different rotations within that part of the business with the idea that they'd get quite, you know, a broad understanding of how that function actually works. And you know, when the programme ends, and when they're rolling off, hopefully be able to roll off into, into quite decent, quite senior role within that function within GSK. There's a lot of training and investment goes into our Future Leaders on that programme.
That's not the only kind of route in to GSK. There's also a variety of different, we call them direct entry positions, which are simply roles and jobs that come up that are at the suitable kind of level for a graduate or student leaving university. So they come up quite frequently throughout the year, they're not, you know, a part of a programme. So there's not that kind of rotational element to them. So if students are like really sure about the the function or the area or the role they really want to come into, and they don't want to rotate within different teams and that kind of thing. Those direct entry positions can be a really good fit as well. So yeah, there's a real variety of different routes into GSK for graduates and for students.
Dan Mason: Yeah, so like I say, a lot of variety and a lot of, you know, while it's a healthcare organisation, just lots of different disciplines as well, academic backgrounds and things. So what is it that you're looking for thinking particularly about your graduate programmes, what is it that you're looking for in terms of skills, qualifications, you know, degree subjects, other the characteristics?
Joshua Carney: Yeah, there are certain programmes that require specific degree subjects. For example, if you're applying to a role within engineering, you might need to have a, you know, a relevant degree for that. However, there are a variety of programmes, and I'm thinking some of our commercial sales and marketing, some of our HR kind of programmes that are open to all degree subjects. So no matter what you're studying, there would be something that would be a, be a good fit, I'm sure. We don't necessarily for most of those programmes, we're not asking for specific grades, or you to have, you know, extensive previous work experience as well, we kind of run a strengths-based recruitment process. So it's looking at your individual motivations, your individual strengths, when people that are really, really motivated to come and work for GSK have those kind of the right strengths to really actually enjoy working here, too. And also share and what is very important is for people to share the GSK values, that's a real large part of what we're looking for, in terms of respect for others, sharing integrity, transparency, that focus on the patient with everything we're doing is really important to us, as well. So that's really, really key.
There are a few kind of other things that I think can help you do really well in the GSK process, or, you know, when actually joining the programme, I think there's a few kind of important things in terms of interest, or that kind of curiosity about different technologies, I think is always very good. You don't have to be kind of a tech genius or anything, I'm certainly not, but I think being open to those kind of new ways of working, new tech is always really, really good. I think it is called the Future Leaders programme as well, so that kind of being a bit more proactive, being a bit more driven. It's a very, I guess, ever changing programme as well, as soon as you're kind of up to speed in your rotation, you're moving on to the next thing, so that being able to show, I suppose it's learning agility, or you know, adaptability, you know, those are very, very key as well for for someone to actually kind of succeed on the programme too. So there's a variety of things that can make you kind of stand out in terms of those kind of hard skills that we're actually looking for, you don't need to have loads of previous work experience, you don't need to have the highest grades, I think those those values aligning with those of GSK and that right motivation, I think is probably the most important thing.
Dan Mason: Absolutely yeah. And so you've mentioned that you, you focus on a strengths-based recruitment process. So how does that look in terms of the actual application process that applicants will go through and how you assess them.
Joshua Carney: So it starts with a very quick eligibility form, that takes you know, a couple of minutes, then the first kind of proper stage is called the World of GSK. So that's like an online test, where candidates would, you know, watch some videos, given different scenarios, it gives you a real good introduction into, into GSK, you'll, yeah, you'll watch a variety of different videos from different business functions as part of the company. So that typically takes students maybe an hour maybe a little longer to complete. And again, that's partly based around those GSK values that I mentioned earlier. Provided, you know, the candidate has met the benchmark for that the next stage is called GSK Life. And that's what we sometimes describe as kind of a job simulation. So there's a few questions that relate more specifically to the role they're actually coming in on. There's also some questions about a candidate's motivation. So this is kind of like a another sort of much shorter online test. And we really want to see people here that are really motivated for the role, motivated for the company. Provided that the candidate is, you know, succeeded and passed that and then get invited to our assessment centre that will be the final stage, which for this year, and possibly for next year is going to be a virtual kind of online assessment centre. That's a mix of strengths-based interview, some individual exercises, for some of the roles that are a little bit more technical, for example, in tech within R&D, within engineering, there is potentially a couple of technical questions, a technical element to that as well. But yeah, that's our final stage. And hopefully, after that, it would be accepting an offer to come in, join GSK.
Dan Mason: Cool ok. And just to add on to that, you mentioned that assessment centres this year, next year, you're thinking are going to be virtual. Do you have any sort of idea longer term yet? Do you do you plan to revert to in-person when that's possible, again, or have virtual assessment centres worked so well, we've heard from other employers that they're looking at carrying those on?
Joshua Carney: Yeah, I think it's a little bit early, too early to say. There's advantages to both, I think, you know, the virtual one, certainly, logistically, it's easier for candidates not having to travel, you know, all the way and it's sometimes easier for assessors as well, you know, we we often get candidates from all across the country travelling down to the office to come and do the interviews. And of course, if they can sit at home and do it, it's a lot easier for them. However, there is advantages to be actually coming in, meet the people and see that site that you're actually going to be based at. There's certainly advantages to both. I don't think any kind of decisions be made yet on what the kind of longer term assessment centre is gonna actually look like.
Dan Mason: Another impact of the pandemic, of course, has been that on not only students' study, but also their ability to get work experience, work placements, a lot of employers have done virtual placements so there have been some opportunities, but also there's a lot, it's much reduced from normal. And so there will be students who are coming out who are graduating, may be concerned about their CV not quite looking like they would have expected it to at this point because of those lack of opportunities. How, how are you as an organisation approaching that, obviously, students have been through a tricky couple of years. How will you be taking that into account in your, in your recruitment?
Joshua Carney: Yeah. So as I, as I think I touched upon, we're actually, we don't require students to have any previous work experience, you're not asked about that as part of the, like, interviews or, or anything like that. So if, you know, I know, it's been a bit tricky. There has been some industries, and some companies have been hiring fewer than they previously would have. So there are, you know, a slightly reduced number of placements and roles and positions available for students to get work experience. But that isn't going to necessarily hold you back, when you're applying to us, but also a lot of other companies that do that kind of strengths-based recruitment. It doesn't, you know, impact on how well you'll be able to answer a lot of questions in those interviews and the other parts of our assessments either. So really don't worry, if you haven't been able to get kind of any work experience, you don't need to, to come and be successful and apply to one of our programmes.
Dan Mason: That's fantastic. And so then, for those who do apply and are successful, could you just give us a little bit of an insight and maybe an overview of of what those first few weeks and months look like in terms of how the programme works, its structure, the support, they get that kind of thing?
Joshua Carney: Sure. So before they start, we'll arrange there's a number of kind of webinars and kind of keep warm activities is what we kind of call it so students will get or graduates will get introduced to each other, but also, some of the different employee resource groups that we have some of the different kinds of networks that we have within GSK, before they start and give them a really good introduction to kind of, you know, welcome them in a little bit. When they start, typically, they'll have kind of, obviously a line manager. But there's, for many parts of our business, kind of a programme manager that looks after lots of our graduates, certainly a lot of people are places to go to, to have advice and really to, to kind of welcome students into the organisation. We've got employee resource groups that they'd certainly be recommended to join if they are interested in areas like the Women's Leadership Initiative, the Disability Confidence Network, Embrace, which is our BAME employee network, and a variety of other ones as well, that new graduates and new people joining our company at any sort of level are really invited to, to, to join, when they actually start at GSK, which I think really, really helps.
There's also a network of current graduates which, all around the world, which, you know, arrange a real variety of social events, networking events, development opportunities, that kind of thing, which I think is very, very helpful when you're joining a new company, especially an organisation as huge as GSK. So, you know, it's a fairly large programme, we don't take on hundreds and hundreds of graduates in the UK. But there are a real variety of other people joining at the same time as any of our students. So it's not like they're joining on their own, and coming into that huge organisation, which I think makes it a little bit easier as well. So there's yeah, a lot to learn in the first few weeks and months, but I certainly think there's a, you know, plenty of support, and, you know, advice for those new people joining the company.
Dan Mason: Ok, and another priority for a lot of students or rather graduates is that they're joining an organisation that is diverse and inclusive. What can you say about GSK's culture and policies in that regard?
Joshua Carney: Yeah, so as I mentioned, those employee resource groups, I think they're a really good part of, a part of our company, as I say, the Women's Leadership Initiative, the Disability Confidence Network, Embrace, Spectrum, which is our LGBTQ+ network, and there's a variety of other ones as well. And I think that's a real benefit of working in such a huge global company is those networks that we have here. There's also a real focus in terms of the GSK culture around this kind of three pillars of be you, feel good and keep growing, especially that kind of be you one, which is the idea that, you know, anyone coming into the company, anyone joining the organisation has, you know, something unique, has different perspectives, different experiences, and that's something that's actually, you know, really valued. I think that's something that's very, very, you know, important at working at GSK. So it is very, very kind of diverse culture that you'll find within the company, especially at GSK House, I haven't been there for, for quite a long time now, but it's yeah, it's always I always do find it a very kind of exciting and interesting place to work with people from, you know, all over the world working within GSK House, which I personally find really exciting.
Dan Mason: Yeah, absolutely. And just finally, then students get bombarded with lots of information about graduate programmes at this time of year, hear about these first two years, you know, when they join an organisation, but less maybe about what the longer term career development options will be, when they join an organisation? Is there anything you can tell us about that kind of thing at GSK? What pathways may open up longer term?
Joshua Carney: Yeah, there's no limit, really, it's very much on how that that that candidate, student, that grad actually performs on the programme, that's the only going to be the limit on how far they can kind of go within the organisation. So our previous CEO before, so our current CEO is Emma Walmsley, the CEO before her, Andrew Witty, joined GSK as a graduate, I think so there's, you know, no limit on how high within the organisation, you can really go. So yeah I think that's, you know, again, another real benefit is such a huge global organisation has so many different opportunities, and so many different career paths, and so many different, you know, locations and functions, which I think again, I think it's quite an exciting thing about working for the company.
Dan Mason: Fantastic. Well, Joshua, thanks so much again for joining us.
Joshua Carney: Cheers. Thanks for having me.
Dan Mason: Thanks once again to Joshua for joining me here on Future You. Don't forget to follow the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts so you don't miss any episodes. You can also listen prospects.ac.uk/podcasts, where you can find full transcripts of the episodes, and do please share this with anyone you know who might find it helpful. Search for graduate jobs at prospects.ac.uk where you'll find everything from the big graduate programmes like GSKs, through to roles with smaller organisations, SMEs, if that's what you prefer, or fits your career plan better. There's loads of careers advice and job profiles on there, too. Finally, you can get in touch with any suggestions, comments or feedback by emailing email@example.com. That's it for this episode. Thanks very much for listening and I'll see you soon.
Note on transcripts
This transcript was produced using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. The audio version is definitive and should be checked before quoting.