My internship as a Widening Participation Officer in the Birmingham Undergraduate Internship Programme (BUIP) was one of the most eye opening experiences I have ever done. It was a massive learning curve and a great confidence booster.
From day one I was part of running a programme called the ‘Impact Challenge’ where it gave 35 of the students here at UoB the chance to work with organisations on community -ased projects. Being a part of running the program gave me a sense of accomplishment as I made a contribution to the experiences of the students participating. Whether it was advising them directly or overseeing behind the scenes work to ensure that the programme was as smooth for them as possible, I was happy to see my peers develop professionally and take strides in ways they hadn’t before. Each group ended the week with a pitch of their idea to everyone and despite there being a ‘winner’ I would be confident to say that every team won something. Whether it was gaining a contact by networking effectively with their employer, or improving their presentation skills or even just improving their confidence in themselves as young professionals, it was amazing to see the sense of accomplishment in the room.
That was the first week out of the way and from there the main body of work began. My line manager had taken enormous strides in the first year of his role. Despite it finishing on a high note with the Impact Challenge, preparations for the next academic year were underway. My main role was to research what Universities were doing in Widening Participation of underrepresented groups in Higher Education and writing a big report of how UoB compared and how we could improve, as well as develop marketing material.
I underestimated the amount of diligence and hard work that was about to go into this as well as the way in which I could expand beyond this to develop my own skills. The research that went into it felt like a dissertation in itself and having just started 3rd year, I felt like this report has helped me massively in my ability to write reports and to deliver information succinctly to target audiences. The research into social mobility employers yielded fantastic results, it was great to see we are living in a society where many companies are taking steps to work with Higher Education Institutes to engage with students in underrepresented groups. I even had a hand in setting up the next stage of the Access to your Career program by developing the CANVAS course that accompanies it. The aim being to be an online platform of opportunity and support for those from underrepresented backgrounds and is now launched and having multitudes of students sign onto it by the day. The marketing and IT skills were a welcome addition and I was happy to learn something new.
I put forward my ideas and stepped outside the initial briefing of the role, and connected our department with other departments within the university to have a more united approach and run more collaborative schemes. I even had the autonomy to set up meetings with external employers to ask them whether they could do workshops here on campus for students to benefit from. This helped me to hone in on my professionalism and ability to lead meetings and identify key stakeholders that can bring something useful to a project. These are skills I will take with me going forward into the way I present myself in interviews and application processes for graduate schemes and graduate roles.
Meeting with the Civil Service resulted in a stronger partnership being formed between UoB and the Civil Service, one of the largest employers of graduates. This has taken the form of them being a part of the employer line up in the A2C programme. They run workshops throughout the year highlighting to undergraduates how to perform at assessment centres and gives them a greater insight into what graduate schemes and undergraduate internships there are for students here at UoB. Having over 15 streams in various sectors they are one of the most diverse employers for undergraduates, with work involving developing policies to going overseas and being a representative for the UK in various political and governmental settings. This is something I knew would appeal to my fellow students and was I was very proud to secure them for the A2C programme for the benefit of others.
Another part that was great about my internship are the people I met. I was working in an office with wonderful personalities and worked alongside people with lots of drive to do the best they could to support us during our student lives here at UoB. I learnt that the staff here in Careers Network are the unsung heroes of the university. The academics may teach the content that feeds your passion, but Careers Network teaches you to have passion for more and that in a seemingly endless sea of competition, your contribution is just important as anyone else’s.
The takeaway message here is to take the plunge and even though it’s scary, apply to as many opportunities as you can find. Don’t be afraid of failing, the exciting part is that with the right initiative, planning and drive you just might just end up achieving something amazing and make great connections and develop in ways that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
I wish you all the best of luck in whatever you may apply yourself too, whether it’s a job application, a new life decision or just as simple as waking up for a 9am lecture, you can do this!
Rayhan Ahmed (BSc Psychology)