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GlaxoSmithKline popularity with graduates

The key to GlaxoSmithKline's popularity? Students who want to help

GlaxoSmithKline was the most popular science recruiter at the TARGETjobs National Graduate Recruitment Awards 2014, maintaining its remarkable track record. The pharmaceutical company has won this award for as long as it has been up for grabs. So what is the secret of GlaxoSmithKline’s enduring popularity?

Perhaps even more impressively, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has typically made it into the top ten most popular recruiters from all sectors in The Guardian UK 300, showing that it also appeals to undergraduates who are not studying science subjects. That’s a definitive thumbs-up from the UK’s graduate job hunters, given that the awards are based on a huge annual survey of nearly 30,000 students carried out by trendence.

According to Louise Burdett, GSK’s UK graduate recruitment manager, the company’s standing with students can be explained by their desire to pursue careers that will allow them to make a difference and benefit others.

She explains, ‘In a year when the NHS, despite the many and obvious challenges it faces, is the top employer again in The Guardian UK 300, it seems that many students are looking for more than monetary rewards in their careers. GSK’s values, its patient focus and commitment to improving people’s health across the world regardless of their ability to pay, are consistently promoted in student marketing, at campus presentations and during the selection process. So regardless of the job that graduates do, scientific or commercial, they feel their work has a positive impact on people’s health.’

Louise points out that the increasingly popular student careers society ENACTUS creates local and international projects that enable undergraduates to work together to benefit communities, and suggests that undergraduates are interested in supporting ENACTUS for the same reasons that they are keen to work for GSK – because they want to contribute to other people’s wellbeing. She comments, ‘It’s no coincidence that GSK is a big supporter of ENACTUS too.’

The appeal of GSK to science undergraduates

GSK has a presence in around 50 UK universities and in some instances is directly involved in co-training students. For example, GSK scientists go to the University of Nottingham to help train undergraduate chemistry students and take them through a week-long organic synthetic chemistry method, and GSK scientists hold visiting professorships at several universities including UCL, Imperial College, the University of Nottingham and the University of Strathclyde.

Louise explains, ‘The main purpose of GSK’s investment in universities is to get them to think more laterally about their research, engage across different disciplines and develop the curriculum to ensure that it is current and fit for purpose.’

GSK training gives recruits broad base for their future careers

Another factor that explains GSK’s appeal to graduates of all degree backgrounds, not just science, is the breadth of the graduate training it offers. Louise explains, ‘When GSK recruits a graduate, regardless of job function, they are expected to build relationships across the business, to understand the whole business whether they are in areas related to their degree or in multidisciplinary teams.’ This enables them to move round the company as their careers develop, for example, from scientific R&D into commercial functions.

GSK recruits around 70 graduates a year onto its future leader programmes, and some more via direct entry. Their graduate programmes involve one or more rotations that enable them to gain wider experience and decide on their future career routes, so their work for the company develops in line with their ambitions and preferences.

Opportunities to work overseas with GSK

Louise says that high performers have every chance of an international career – not just a secondment to an overseas office, but a permanent role. ‘Many multinationals recruiting in the UK are constrained in what they can offer graduates overseas, but GSK actively promotes the benefits of working in mixed nationality teams in Europe, South America, Asia and the US.’

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