My first day at GSK: What I’ve learnt – the power of confidence in being yourself

By Stephen Beckwith

When I was told I’d been selected for GSK’s grad scheme, I felt like I’d achieved my goal at that time: I’d got the job at the company I wanted and in the area of the business I wanted. Then, suddenly, the months roll by where you relax, knowing employment is secure and the degree was definitely worth doing. You decide to go on holiday to recharge before starting your career and it’s only when you come back that it hits you – ‘oh, that role that was months away is now’. The excitement and nerves kick in and loads of questions seemed important – ‘what’s the dress code?’, ‘what’s the quickest route to work?’, ‘what time should I arrive on the first day?’ Naturally these questions weren’t left to chance. My ‘buddy’ on the grad scheme from the year above was a great source of support in planning in the months prior to my first day, as were the calls from my Programme Manager.

When the day came, I got up early enough that even if I had to walk down the railway track, I’d still have made it  in on time! After passing the first test as security let me in, I stood taking in the impressive shiny glass building and all the people filing in.

I found that putting pressure on yourself to get everything right on the first day can mean that you can end up acting more reserved than your natural self. You hear how many years all your colleagues have been at GSK, or in the industry, and you can start thinking ‘how I can add anything to such an experienced team?’ Unsurprisingly, you quickly learn that this is one of the worst things you can do. Just be yourself! Your new perspective can bring valuable new insights to the team, don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo and input your ideas. It’s definitely the best way to learn - for you and the rest of the team!

Meeting the colleagues across the floor was brilliant, as I got to meet the full team I’d be working with as well as all the other teams across the floor. I knew from the warm welcome that I would enjoy it. What was not so brilliant was the prospect of trying to remember everyone’s name when introduced to 30 plus people in a short space of time. Luckily, there was no test conducted on this and over time the names all stuck!

There was also the talk with my manager and the other senior colleagues on the first day. This was a great chance to find out more about the business through the different journeys and experiences of others, something I still find valuable to learn when meeting new colleagues today. Now, without wanting to scare anyone or blow it out of proportion, don’t underestimate the first impression you create with those you meet! I only draw this out as it links back to being yourself and representing yourself the way you want to be seen by others. Building a personal brand from the start is always easier than trying to change it later on. Now, to reassure you that you aren’t on your own in setting yourself up for success at GSK, on my first day I experienced a VP within HR (who interviewed me at the assessment centre) coming over to congratulate me on my successful application and welcome me to the company. The support is there all around you from your colleagues - be brave enough to ask for it when you need it!

Always remember that it’s GSK that chose you through the rigorous selection process, so you’ve already had a massive vote of confidence. Utilise it and be yourself. That way, you’ll get the most out of not only your first day but also your whole FLP and beyond. Enjoy it!