5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Applying…
Thinking about applying to the Scheme? Making your way down the ‘Times Top 100 Graduate Employers’ list in the hope of finding your calling? It’s 3am and you’ve reached your daily meme capacity and somehow ended up here? Welcome all!
I’m Nima and I’m two months into my first placement on the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme – or ‘GMTS’ as it’s often referred to… the first of many acronyms in the NHS! This time last year I was balancing university life with applications, going to careers fairs for reasons other than the freebies that entice most 1st and 2nd years, and semi-panicking about how many job offers that guy in my seminar had. It all sounds quite cliché, but if you asked me at the time, I never would have believed that one year on I’d be here. However, I remember finding other people’s blogs so useful that I promised myself that if I did make it onto the Scheme, I’d make my own contribution.
So, in my first blog I’m going to share 5 things I wish I knew (or knew more about, but that made a less catchy title!) before applying to the GMTS. There’s a wealth of knowledge you can find on this website, including more information about the structure and timelines of the application process, and other trainees’ blogs sharing their insights into the Scheme. My input is to focus on some of the less obvious application tips.
Some background information:
Applications for next year’s intake are open and will remain open until the 4th December 2018
- Last year there were around 17,000 applications for 200 places, so 1 in 85 got on; don’t let that intimidate you, every single person I’ve met on the Scheme were beyond surprised they were the 1!
- Next year the Scheme is planning to take on more trainees – there are 500 places up for grabs
- There are different specialisms and locations across England and although you specify your preferences and the team try to match these, they may ask you to be flexible
- The application process consists of an online application, five online tests, one or two interviews depending on your preferred specialism, and an assessment centre
- The process spans from now until the end of March, with offers for positions or being on the waiting list for a position made around April, and the start date being in September 2019
- Social networks
Keep reading blogs like these! But also have conversations, so you can get personalised answers from those who have been through what you’re going through. Social media is so useful both to gain a realistic insight into the Scheme, as well as to connect with those on it. I’d recommend following these accounts:
The page is great for staying up-to-date with Scheme alerts, as well as interesting articles about the NHS in general.
There’s an underground NHS Twitter scene! So many current grads and alumni tweet about their experiences and would be more than happy to engage with you and answer your questions. Bonus points for engaging with more senior NHS leaders to get an inside perspective on NHS practices and debates.
Why scroll through *another* brunch photo, when you can follow trainees riding in ambulances shadowing paramedics, attending national health conferences and on educational residentials. Grads take turns managing the Snapchat, so you’ll get an insight into many different specialisms and NHS organisations, and can interact with whoever’s covering on the day.
‘Insider’ discussions: http://www.nhsgraduates.co.uk/connect/our-insiders/
Trainees have specifically signed up to be an ‘Insider’ because they want to talk to you! Sign up to post questions to specific people, read previous discussions and watch Insider video responses.
Pick your specialism well. In the online application section, you’re asked to specify your preferred specialism as well as other ones you’d like to be considered for. From speaking to current grads, the two leading approaches seem to be either, 1: list everything in the hope I get one! And 2: pick one without much research because “I’m obviously not going to get onto the scheme” …Well.
Although you are first and foremost a GMTS Trainee, your specialism dictates the professional qualification you undertake and influences your role, organisation and the structure of your time on the Scheme, including how much time you spend studying versus working. Leave time to do your research and reflect on what kind of tasks you get excited to do, and your specialism should reveal itself.
Competencies: More Than Just a Buzz Word. In every task in the application process you’re judged against the competencies outlined in the ‘NHS Healthcare Leadership Model’ (https://www.leadershipacademy.nhs.uk/resources/healthcare-leadership-model/) and your resilience, so make sure you demonstrate the relevant behaviours explicitly. Admittedly this is less relevant for the numerical, verbal and critical tests which are a case of getting the answers objectively correct, but for the other tests and stages, competencies are key.
Do more than just know the competencies: understand what they entail, why they are important, the kind of actions which demonstrate them and how your experiences show you have, or have the potential to develop, expertise in them. You could be the most qualified and intelligent candidate, but you need to express this through the assessment criteria to be successful. The competencies are there for a reason, it’s just that this reason isn’t always clear until you’re in the job itself. I’m currently planning my first placement by trying to ensure I develop a broad range of these competencies, so make friends with the Model as the competencies are here to stay!
- The right fit
Naturally, there’s a lot of emphasis on just getting through the application stages, but don’t forget that on the other side of it is an actual job and qualifications that a) you’ll be undertaking for two or two and a half years (depending on specialism), and b) will impact your career trajectory. Make sure the scheme is a good fit for you, as much as you are for it.
It’s a fast-paced and varied scheme, and I’m personally finding it to be rewarding and exciting so far – try to make sure it aligns with what motivates, interests and excites you too. The irony is that ensuring you can justify your reasons for applying to the Scheme (and your specialism) to yourself, is likely to help you in the application process, particularly in later stages.
It’s natural to feel daunted when you’re staring at a list of application stages, but try and frame these as a set of opportunities to learn about yourself. At each stage aim to prepare thoroughly and practice what’s being asked of you, do your best and then learn from the experience, regardless of the outcome. It’s no accident that resilience is one of the assessment criteria – you’ll need it on the Scheme, so you may as well begin developing it now!
As you go through the process, particularly in the waiting stages, bear in mind that the NHS is full of supportive people who want you to succeed, and that there are also other great routes into healthcare management, so if you’re passionate about the NHS then there are plenty of doors open for you!
So there you have it, 5 things I wish I knew more about, before applying to the GMTS.
Don’t hesitate to contact me through my new shiny twitter account @nimaroyNHS if you have any questions, or ideas for future blogs! Wishing you the best of luck 🙂