I’m a 27 year old trained pharmacy technician with over five years of full-time work experience. I’ve served customers, used tills, phoned suppliers, worked with a variety of professionals, supervised teams and managed my own project. You’re probably wondering why I would bother taking part in the Cardiff Award when I already have this level of experience.
Well, to tell the truth, I could really benefit from it. I constantly struggled with my job. My duties may look impressive written on paper but in reality I had a hard time keeping up with my workload. On top of that I wasn’t particularly great at communicating with either my clients or my colleagues. I preferred to be left to my own devices in the back room where I could dispense without interruption. I grudgingly accepted the role of supervisor because no one else could do it and leading team meetings incited fear into my heart. I always got my work done on time and was regularly praised for my pharmaceutical knowledge but my extreme lack of confidence, especially in front of customers, was harming not only my professional image but that of my team.
I’ll tell you a secret: I did not leave my job and come to university to retrain in a better career. I did not leave my job and come to university in order to fulfil a burning desire to study literature. I did not even leave my job and come to university to experience the joys of studentdom which I’d missed out on when I was younger. I left my job and came to university because it was the easy option. I really did.
After five years of pharmacy it had got to a point where I was so overwhelmed with my confidence issues that coming into work every day felt like torture. I didn’t have a close relationship with my colleagues and I felt like they didn’t understand me. I felt like I was constantly struggling to keep up with everyone else and I dreaded the day my manager would pull me up for not making more of an effort. I hated making weekly phone calls to my patients and on the days where I had to make those calls it felt like a knife was twisting in my stomach. The day on which I considered not contacting one of my patients – which could have potentially had a profound negative effect on their health – I knew I had gone too far. It was ok for my lack of confidence to affect me but to risk the health of a patient was selfish and dangerous. I gave in my notice and applied to come to Cardiff University.
So I took the easy way out. I was now a student! Brilliant! Time to focus on what I wanted to do and, if I kept my head down and didn’t speak too much in seminars, I could probably get through it without drawing attention to myself. Fabulous. For the first few weeks of term I was walking around with a smile on my face. I loved my course and I’d made a few good friends who had the same interests as me. My family kept commenting that I appeared happier and healthier.
However, running away to university was a bit like applying a dressing to a wound. It provided temporary relief but more had to be done to heal it. I started thinking about the future. Yes, I was having a great time right now, but inevitably I would have to start thinking about a career, which meant I would have to confront my problem.
This is where the Cardiff Award comes in. During Fresher’s Week I’d picked up some information about the award. I was instantly drawn in by the skills workshops, which help with issues such as speaking, presenting and leadership, all of which I struggled with at work. As well as this, I knew that once I finished my degree I would have to fight for a graduate job in a highly competitive market. You’re probably well aware that there are often thousands of graduates, all with good degrees from good universities, applying for one position. I figured that the Cardiff Award was a good way to make my CV stand out from the rest.
The first thing I did for my award was the Self Assessment Exercise, which involved answering questions about the way I worked and motivated myself. It was such a simple exercise, taking no more than half an hour, but it was a massive turning point for me. After completing it I realised that I am actually quite a confident person, but I lack confidence in my own ability. This explained why, although I find it easy to socialise with people, I find it difficult to sell someone cough medicine. I did not believe I knew enough to make the best choice and was worried about appearing stupid if that happened.
However, while reflecting on my previous experience, I realised that I was actually quite capable and had only had good experiences. I just needed to let my confidence grow. Now I finally knew what the problem was, I could go about fixing it.
Throughout my time on the award I have tried to take on as many new experiences as I can in order to gain self-confidence. I volunteered for Blackout Wales, which meant working with a large group of people I didn’t know, but I loved it and made some good friends. I took part in Cardiff University Enterprise’s Concept, which involved working closely with my team and making leadership decisions. I had a fun time, learned a lot about marketing and also practised my teamwork and leadership skills in a ‘safe’ environment.
I worked in City Hall for a week as a graduation assistant, actually greeting every graduate who came through the doors. I made a couple of mistakes and got my words muddled up now and again, but no one cared. I soon got over my fear of looking foolish in front of people. The hardest experience for me was working on reception in a busy university department. I’d never worked on a reception desk before and was really scared of messing up. And I did mess up. And although I was very tempted to flee from the building, I sat it out. And everything was ok.
The experiences I’ve had so far with the Cardiff Award are the most beneficial I’ve had in my entire adult life. A year ago it was beyond my comprehension that I would ever achieve the things I have since taking part in the award. I’ve learned an incredible amount which I wished I’d known while I was working. I’ve gained new skills, had experience working in graduate roles and my confidence in myself has grown and grown. So although I ran away from my problems I’m glad I ran to the right place. Doing my degree has changed my life. Doing the Cardiff Award is a way for me to put this change into effect and ensure that I have the best future I can have.