Posted by: Emily Hardaker26 SEP 2011
Despite the fact that earlier in the year I wrote approximately 6 billion letters and emails, last summer I failed to secure myself a summer placement in a pharmacy. I am hoping that the reason for this was mainly horrific luck on my part. However, this year, I am on my applications like a tramp on some free chips. There is nothing stopping me. Apart from the fact I just broke my printer and now have yellow ink on my hands, and now a yellow keyboard.
Regardless of my only option being to find some other form of employment, my very wonderful friend (whose father is a pharmacist) allowed me to come and stay with her for a week and work with her dad. In my five days I came to learn several very important things. Being a pharmacy "virgin", I had a vague idea of what to expect the experience to entail from my lectures and role-playing in practicals etc. I came to realise that some things you don't get taught.
The first of these was that my age is a problem, mainly because its widely believed that age, experience and wisdom go hand in hand. And while a younger, female customer felt more comfortable approaching me than other staff most people wanted to see the pharmacist or someone 'older'.
Another lesson I learned was that I need to improve my small talk as when you are standing at the counter with a customer a conversation about how bad the weather is lasts all of ten seconds. And I didn't particularly think it was appropriate to say 'so what's wrong with you then?'.
Lesson number three is wear comfortable shoes. I wore a pair of brogues that I love and I thought were particularly smart. However, I didn't realise that the soles contained a hidden bed of nails. In hindsight I'm going to buy some sensible shoes from Marks and Spencers so I don't have to crawl around in pain as soon as I leave.
My final lesson sounds incredibly cheesy and predictable but I feel it's important so I'm keeping it in. And it's that a smile goes a long way — further than you might think. It inspires confidence and if you are happy and pleasant it will definitely make the fact that the customer has to wait for a while that bit more bearable.
I can only think that if I'd found a placement how much more I would've been able to discover. However that's saved for next summer now, and it's not like watching all that Bargain Hunt was a waste of time....was it?