Testimonial from our grads

Gradunique was established in 2016 and has been run on an ongoing basis since then.

Below, Tom Almond, who joined Gradunique earlier this year gives his views on why he applied, the application process, and what he’s currently involved with.

Hannah Shackleford, who joined Gradunique in September 2017 provides an overview of her first year on the Programme.

Emily East and Liv Verghase, who joined Gradunique in September 2016 and have now completed the two-year Programme, have both chosen to continue their careers within British Heart Foundation or Macmillan Cancer Support. Emily & Liv briefly outline what they’re doing now and what they gained from the Programme.

Tom Almond joined Gradunique in September 2018.

At the beginning of my final year at the University of Leeds, I spent a lot of time looking for graduate schemes, and when I stumbled upon Gradunique it ticked every one of my boxes.

Having worked in politics during my work placement year, I knew I was looking for a career where I could work on a cause or issue about which I was truly passionate. With this in mind, the opportunity to work for two inspiring health charities was too good to pass up on.

I was also attracted by the ability to do four placements across different parts of both charities. With my background in politics, I had a definite interest in working within the policy and public affairs team, but I was also keen to experience working in fundraising and the numerous other teams that enable both charities to make such a difference in society.

Since the scheme looked so amazing, I suspected they’d be drowning in qualified applicants, and I wasn’t expecting to get the job. But, I figured someone had to get on the scheme, so it couldn’t hurt to throw my hat in the ring.

I then did my best to put together a written application that I thought best represented both why I wanted to join the scheme and what made me a suitable candidate. In fact, I spent last New Year’s Eve putting the finishing touches on my Gradunique application, so I’m looking forward to not doing graduate scheme applications this time around!

After getting through the first stage of the application process, I somehow managed to get through the dreaded video interview stage, and soon found myself at what I’m fairly certain was the friendliest assessment centre in history.

In fact, I remember calling my Mum on the way back from the assessment centre to let her know how it had gone, and saying that I wish it hadn’t seemed like such a nice place to work,  because it was going to make the inevitable rejection that much harder.

So, it’s fair to say I was a bit gobsmacked when I got the call to say I’d got the job.

My first couple of months as a graduate in the Policy and Public Affairs team at the BHF have been a bit of a whirlwind, to say the least. But, I’m happy to report that it’s going well so far.

My current highpoint has been the opportunity I was given to help staff our stand at Labour Party Conference, which included an unexpected (and somewhat terrifying) interview live on Sky News. I’ve also organised a couple of roundtable events in parliament, bringing together policy makers, patients, and experts from the health sphere to discuss the impact of artificial intelligence on people living with heart and circulatory conditions.

My advice to people considering applying for the scheme would be as follows: if you’re genuinely passionate about starting a career in the charity sector, go for it. Our most recent intake on the scheme come from across the country and from completely different academic and professional backgrounds, so there’s no one type of candidate the recruitment team are looking for.

It could be you.

Hannah Shackleford’s Blog – joined Gradunique in September 2017.

When asked to write a blog reflecting on my first year on the Gradunique graduate Programme, I didn’t really know where to start. Going back through my calendar made me realise just how much I’ve been able to get involved in and how hard it’s going to be to leave BHF for my second year of the scheme at Macmillan. Here’s a little timeline of my highlights so far…

4– 15 September: Inductions galore and my time in Legacy Marketing begins.
My year at the BHF began with 1,000 inductions and a whirlwind of things to learn and people to meet.

9 October: Institute of Fundraising Legacy Conference.
Being pretty fresh to Legacy Marketing, my manager Holly decided it would be a good idea to attend a conference to learn more and ‘network’, a word which is yet to become less daunting…

18 October: Belfast Legacy Event.
This was the first event I managed and I loved it. I hadn’t been in the team that long and I was keen to do a good job. Thankfully, I didn’t mess it up – it was our biggest turn out of the year and the venue was incredible (see below for the Titanic replica staircase!).

14 November: Mediation with Legacy Management.
I was incredibly fortunate to be able to go along to a mediation (where we try to settle a legal dispute over a gift left to us in a Will). It was a long day and quite a tense meeting the family disputing the Will, but our team was amazing and we came away having secured almost £1m!

22 November: Research Parliamentary Reception.
Fellow grad Kathryn invited us along to a Parliamentary Reception she had been organising. She did such a fantastic job and the event was a resounding success. There was grad pride in abundance, and the chance to mingle with politicians and researchers in impressive Westminster surroundings…

12 December: Edinburgh Celebration of Life.
My second event, and the first time this Christmas service had been taken outside of London. It was such an amazing opportunity to get to know the BHF team up in Edinburgh and work with them to deliver a wonderfully festive event filled with carols and mince pies.

Christmas parties all round… with agency parties and lunches, team evenings out, as well as the good old GLH (Greater London House – BHF’s Head Office) shindig with ping pong and box wine <3

14 February: Grads present for Queen Mary University careers taster day.
Our little BHF grad team presented to students from QMU about our experience as part of their careers taster day here at GLH. It was good presentation practice and we always like an excuse to get together (especially on Valentine’s Day).

A real highlight. The Legacy Marketing team set a number of non-work related team challenges, including a chilli growing competition. We sourced the seeds from Wahaca in Kentish Town (good excuse for a team lunch) and the chillies are going strong!

28 February: Last day with Legacy Marketing and Science Museum Late with new team!
This was it. My final farewell to the Legacy lot and onto my next placement. After a lovely send off with gifts of gin, veggie sweets and coffee paraphernalia, I got a taster of my new life in Research Engagement by joining the team at the Science Museum Late to talk about BHF’s research into the effect of sport on the heart.

5 March: First day with Research Engagement. Eeek.
Despite feeling like a newbie all over again, with lots of new faces and so much to learn, I was excited for a new challenge.

4 April: Recently Funded Research meeting.
This was my first chance to convince the rest of the organisation that I know all about research by telling them about some of the most exciting projects we’d funded in the last quarter… I think I just about managed it.

17 – 20 April: The Young Programme, England and Wales – Lancaster.
Having applied for a place on this development programme, Kathryn and I were both accepted and went off to Lancaster for what turned out to be the most incredible week. It was absolutely jam packed and really stretched us to think about, debate and present on the most important issues facing society, but we also met the loveliest people and had some fun in between. 

24 – 25 April: Devolved Nations Conference – Belfast.
Straight back into it. My team jetted off to Belfast to present about what our team do and demonstrate some of the activities we have available for events. It was a really fascinating couple of days and a chance to meet BHF staff from the nations.

2 May: Grad Show and Tell.
The four of us prepared a show and tell with internal comms for staff at GLH to hear more about the scheme, how we got here and what we’ve been up to.

8 May: Annual Summit.
We grads were invited along to the Annual Summit with a whole host of other BHFers to discuss big data and how we can be more involved in this area. What I had feared may go right over my head was actually fascinating, with talks from Google’s DeepMind, Amazon and the National Data Guardian, Dame Fiona Caldicott.

15 May: Pint of Science – Bristol.
I went over to Bristol (those who know me know I seize any opportunity to get back to my University city) to open an event we were sponsoring there as part of the International Pint of Science festival, where researchers talk to the public about their research in pubs. Working from a pub in Bristol – it doesn’t get much better than that!

4 – 8 June: Cheltenham Science Festival.
My team took along an array of 3D printed hearts and Artbeat, an activity that makes a unique piece of art by measuring the unique aspects of your heart beat, to the Cheltenham Science Festival. We spent the days on our feet talking to hundreds of people, but spent the evenings in an Airbnb together, cooking group dinners and watching Love Island.

28 June: Submitted Wellcome Trust Public Engagement Fund application.
After a few days locked away with my buddy Christie, we managed to submit our application for Wellcome funding with three whole minutes to spare. This had been the culmination of months of talks, hearing ideas from multiple agencies and then working with one to develop an activity worth £250,000 funding. Finger’s crossed!

25 July: Science Museum Late.
I’m leading on our presence at the next Science Museum Late on 25 July, with the theme Medical Marvels. We’ll be talking about 3D printing and how it’s helped to advance medicine, and will even have one of our researchers there to share his expertise in this field.

Emily East and Liv Verghase – joined Gradunique in September 2016.

Emily is now a Legacy Development Manager with British Heart Foundation. During the Programme, Emily had a variety of placements in different teams, ranging from Individual giving (fundraising) to Philanthropy and partnerships as well as the Public Affairs team.

“I feel so lucky to have been part of Gradunique. Over the last two years, I’ve got to work across teams, directorates and organisations which has meant that I’ve gained a huge variety of skills and knowledge, and I’ve got to understand the charity sector in a far more broad sense than what I could have hoped for in any other setting. Having finished the graduate scheme, I’m now in a management level role at one of the host organisations – I don’t think I could have hoped to get this sort of role without Gradunique! It equipped me with the tools and techniques to be manager, as well as the confidence to know that I can do it well”.

Liv is now a Policy officer at Macmillan Cancer Support. Liv had the opportunity to manage a range of projects through a variety of placements in Policy and Public affairs, Brand & Marketing and Digital Insights and Analysis teams.

“The opportunity to be part of the Gradunique scheme has been an incredible and eye-opening experience into what the charity sector offers, both to its staff and its beneficiaries. The real uniqueness of the scheme comes from the ability to dip your toe into different facets of two very inspiring but different organisations in such a short space of time. My time on the scheme has seen me speaking to members of parliament, assisting on the development of creative advertising concepts and many other exciting projects. Personal highlight was attending the BHF board meeting and gaining an insight into strategic high-level decision making. I strongly believe that all these experiences have allowed me to gain the necessary insight and skills base to secure my dream role at Macmillan Cancer Support in the Policy and Impact division”.

During the assessment centre, you will have the opportunity to meet and chat to graduates who have completed the Programme as well as those currently participating in the Programme.

Applications process for this award-winning graduate scheme will open for the 2020 Programme shortly. Please subscribe to our newsletter  for updates.

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