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Alumnus explains how doing a placement year kick-started his career journey

Ali Hussain

Without Brunel offering the opportunity to do a placement and do it at Brunel, the trajectory I am on would certainly be very different.

Ali, Alumni

Project Manager, Dutch National Healthcare Institute

Politics and History BSc - 2017

From UK

Tell us about your career journey since you graduated?

Well before graduating, I knew I wanted to move abroad. With friends and family in the Netherlands, I started early on to look for a job there. My search led me to my current role as a Project Manager at the Dutch National Healthcare Institute - a subsidiary of the Dutch Health Ministry and part of the civil service. While the institute is responsible for maintaining and monitoring the Dutch healthcare system, my role is a bit different, as I work with an international team on a project called the European Network for Health Technology Assessment (EUnetHTA). The European Commission funded project aims to establish a permanent model of collaboration on health technology assessment in Europe.

What does an average day at work involve for you?

As cliché as it sounds, there is no day that is ever the same. I have meetings and catch-ups and coffees, just like many people working in an office environment. What I enjoy about my job is that it is very internationally orientated. I often have e-meetings as most of our partners are abroad and one day we could be speaking to someone from Ukraine and the next day, Sweden. We often have Executive Board meetings with people from all around the world. I also travel quite a bit across Europe for work which I enjoy. This makes an average day a bit more interesting.

What's been the highlight of your career so far?

I’ve recently been seconded to a new project called the International Horizon Scanning Initiative and I feel this is my highlight so far. Senior management were impressed with my work at EUnetHTA, and wanted to specifically bring my project management expertise to set up a completely new project.

How would you say Brunel helped you to get where you are today?

By providing me with the opportunity to do a placement. Well before I graduated, and I was only in the beginning stages of applying for a job, I was and have always been an advocate of placements. My placement also luckily took place in the Communications department at Brunel - this gave me first-hand experience amongst real-world professionals. I learnt what to do and what not to do and that only comes from actually working. Getting experience while studying (and still receiving student finance and living like a student) is a win-win situation in my opinion. Without Brunel offering the opportunity to a) do a placement and b) do it at Brunel, the trajectory I am on would certainly be very different.

Why did you choose to study at Brunel and why would you recommend Brunel to others?

I chose to study at Brunel because of several reasons. Firstly, it had a good reputation - it was doing reasonably well in university rankings and part of my course, History, was among the top five in the country (in fact I think it was third in the country at that time). Second, the atmosphere of the University. The first time I came to see the University everyone was incredibly friendly and clearly loved the place. With minimal effort on my part, I was able to chat to a lot of students - just in passing - who told me about their positive experience at Brunel. This warm, friendly and honest experience was not something I’d found on other open days.

What is your best memory of studying here?

There are lots. Although, I’d have to say, there were several times during my placement year in the Communications, Marketing and Student Recruitment (CMSR) team at Brunel which I could call some of my best memories. The people were lovely and our team was close-knit and welcoming. We made each other laugh and we had the best of times in the office. I learnt so much from the people in my team, professionally and personally, which I still cherish today.

If you could give one piece of advice to new students, what would that be?

One, do a placement, the benefits of which should be clear from my answer to the earlier question. Two, start applying for jobs early! Too many students wait till after graduating to start looking for a job. By this time, summer is in full swing and the search gets delayed until autumn. The longer a student waits - the harder it gets. Many of my peers lost enthusiasm and settled for anything, simply because they did not start early enough. And it’s such an easy mistake to avoid. I started looking for jobs in the December (of final year) before my graduation year. It takes time to know what you’re looking for and it takes time to actually find a job. It took me more than 50 applications and hundreds of hours, but I didn’t mind. I still continued my university work and a job alongside my search. So, to all students due to graduate, please start early!

What would be your top tip or advice for new graduates as they begin their career journey?

My advice would be not to confine your job hunt to a specific geographical area, i.e. just because you live in London, don’t think you have to apply for a job there. There are a lot of opportunities out there and don’t be afraid to look at other cities and even other countries. I work with a diverse group of people here in Amsterdam and it’s fantastic to hear about their different experiences in their countries. We also have a lot in common, for example, settling into a new country and making sure we’re aware of all the relevant expat stuff.