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Q&A: Charles Nzomo shares how ‘GSK Unlocked’ taught him to ask for help and how it built his confidence

The GSK Unlocked programme gave 20 ambitious young adults from socially and ethnically diverse backgrounds, some insights and skills, which are designed to help them better prepare for their professional journey. With the support of 32 GSK volunteers, they learned some key values and developed some personal and professional skills through their very own GSK buddy and coach.

Hi Charles. Thanks for taking the time to answer our Q&A. To begin with, could you tell us a bit about your background?

I went to school and have lived most of my life in the borough of Lewisham, South London. Certain areas around where I live haven’t had the best of reputations (the borough was once named “the least peaceful place” in the UK). There aren’t many examples of “very successful” people to inspire you locally, for instance.

While at school, I had the opportunity to interact with a widely diverse group of people. This has contributed to my being able to see various viewpoints and being better placed to understand other people’s needs and challenges that aren’t like me.

I haven’t had many people that I could turn to for work opportunities or experience in the corporate world. As a result, I haven’t really had many ideas of what I wanted to do as a career until quite recently. I’ve just taken a gap year after finishing my course. I had been doing some tutoring work while exploring career options.

What were you hoping to get out of GSK Unlocked?

My main aim of participating in the GSK Unlocked programme was to improve my confidence. Something that has often held me back is not feeling confident enough either in my abilities or in reaching out to people. This led to me to not asking people for help when I’ve needed it or avoiding chasing opportunities because I haven’t felt that I was good enough to achieve them.

I also wanted to challenge myself and try something different — after all, I thought “there’s nothing to lose, so why not?” — as well as having the opportunity to experience and work with a large company, I also got to learn about their expectations and what qualities are searched for in candidates.

Everyone I’ve talked to at GSK has been very welcoming and willing to help the participants. They seem genuinely motivated in coaching and developing others.

How has ‘GSK Unlocked’ been, compared to your expectations?

When coming on to the programme, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, to be honest — it was quite different from what I was used to. However, I was optimistic that I would be able to gain something useful out of participating. Having taken part in the programme now, I would say that it has impressed me quite a lot! The programme has helped me learn about the importance of GSK’s expectations too. We were given talks by GSK staff who explained the necessity of each requirement for progression in the organisation.

Josh, the buddy I was paired with as part of the programme, encouraged me to speak up during sessions and helped me set and break down targets. Holding me to account with follow up objectives. He’s helped me to take steps towards building my confidence too (part of the motivation for my writing this article is related to building my confidence, something that I probably wouldn’t have done before!).

The coaching sessions have also been very enlightening too — the meetings I’ve had with Kirsty gave me useful insights about what to say during interviews and ways I could stand out during recruitment processes.

During a session I had with Harminder based on accountability, I set targets for myself to break down. Turning them into ever smaller and more achievable actions, in order to allow me to follow through on the goals that I set myself. This was a revelation.

Something that has often held me back is not feeling confident enough either in my abilities or in reaching out to people, leading to me not asking people for help when I’ve needed it or avoiding chasing opportunities because I haven’t felt that I was “good enough” to achieve them

What would you say to your peers about GSK?

Everyone I’ve talked to at GSK has been very welcoming and willing to help the participants. They seem genuinely motivated in coaching and developing others. My time with GSK has been amazing. I would recommend diverse talent who are considering applying to do so. Their strengths-based application process gives a chance for those who may not have had the same range of opportunities and connection as others, as the process is based on looking for future potential and what energises you as a person.

What has been your favourite moment so far?

It’s difficult for me to choose a single moment! One of my favourite parts of the programme was the practice interviews, which have been very useful in helping me improve and be more mindful of things that I need to be aware of.

One of the practice interview sessions with Mirjana (based on teamwork) helped me to realise that during interviews it’s alright to ask for additional time, rather than having to rush an answer. I also had a friendly reminder that I need to improve on my eye contact! Most importantly, it reinforced the point that it’s key to ask for help when it’s needed.

During another interview practice session with my GSK buddy, Josh, we had three questions based on accountability. I was encouraged to use three different experiences. In my feedback, I was surprised that the answer I thought was the weakest, turned out to be their favourite, which made me more confident about using my previous life experiences as examples of experience or insight that people might value.

Thanks for being part of GSK Unlocked, Charles. We’re looking forward to the Celebration Event on the 27th of November. It’s going to be inspiring!

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