I remember applying because I had just read the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and there was a particular fact that stuck with me and motivated me to apply to Undergraduate of the Year: women don’t apply for jobs unless they meet 100% of the criteria in the job description, whilst men will apply if they manage to meet 60%.
I think reading the awards descriptions can sometimes be quite daunting because you may think, “Oh I don’t have evidence to prove that I tick some of these boxes” but one of the great things about the Undergraduate of the Year process is that it gives you the chance to demonstrate skills and abilities in a range of different ways.
The application process was more straightforward than I initially expected: I filled out the basic application form and answered three questions set by the sponsoring company, which in this case was Proctor & Gamble (P&G). P&G then invited me to undergo some online tests and a Skype interview, after which I was elated to find out that I was shortlisted for the top ten and invited to go to a three-day assessment centre called the “Careers Academy”.
I was really nervous at this stage, as I had never been to an assessment center before, and had ever heard of one lasting more than a day, so I was expecting a rigorous, ruthless The Apprentice style process. I could not have been more wrong. I spent three fantastic days learning all about the fast-moving consumer goods industry, meeting senior members of the organisation and practising sales skills in a Great British Bake Off-esque environment.
After this event, came the awards ceremony, which was an unforgettable day. There was the chance for all the finalists from all categories to meet each other and I loved getting to know so many like-minded people from around the country. We then heard about the experiences of winners from previous years and how the awards impacted their lives, providing us with an exciting sneak peak into our futures. Rachel Riley presented the awards and delivered a moving, inspiring speech that raised awareness about several social issues and invited us to become part of a wider discussion. She was also very down-to earth and kindly took the time to speak to everyone who approached her; speaking to her one-on-one about how to promote women in STEM was an amazing moment that I won’t soon forget.
From start to finish, the whole experience was extremely worthwhile. I connected with some incredible people my age from around the country who were working on unbelievable projects; I learned a huge amount about myself; I developed both professionally and personally in ways I didn’t expect; AND I got to meet Rachel Riley.
I wouldn’t have achieved any of that if I’d listened to that little voice in my head saying “You’re not good enough” or “You won’t make it past the first round. You might as well not bother.” So, in the famous words of Nike and Shia LaBeouf, my advice to anyone thinking of applying to be Undergraduate of the Year is: Just Do It.