A Learning Curve and a Confidence Booster: My internship with Careers Network

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.

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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.

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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)

What I Learned From Jobs I Hated

As students, we’ve all been guilty taking any job you can get you can get your hands on in a desperate attempt to avoid submerging into your overdraft or to try and fill your CV up with some credible experience. Chatting with my housemates the other day about the various jobs we’ve taken on hoping for some income or valuable work experience, we found ourselves comparing our worst work horror stories. One worked in a takeaway where the conditions of the kitchen and cooking habits would be enough to put you off Chinese food for life; one worked with a property company but found the work so painfully boring that they could be found fighting to keep their eyes open at the desk; and one took summer work experience as a receptionist but was given such vague instructions and training that the feat of frustration from customers who’s questions couldn’t be answered was inherently inevitable. As the conversation progressed through stories of nasty colleagues, endless scanning and even one accusation of stealing, we began to realise all the things we’d gained from enduring these experiences.

Speaking to various employers at the Engineering, Science and Technology Fair last week about their career preparation tips for students, one graduate working for a design engineering company noted not to underestimate the value of any work experience. They told me that even if you did a few hours of work experience in a particular field, it’s worth putting it on your CV. Any kind of professional experience you do builds skills and allows you to gain an understanding of what it’s like to work in a professional setting. Applying this advice to the jobs I’ve had and hated, made me realise that I did gain a wealth of skills that will come in handy in the workplace. For instance, whilst I may have hated enduring hours of transcribing interviews and attempting to write interview questions for Katie Price about her new book (there was no way I was going to actually read it) when working with a celebrity gossip magazine, from that work experience I learnt how to work in a pressurised environment, independently research and complete tasks and type at an extremely fast pace. The fact that this experience may lead to gaining my dream job one day starts to make it seem like it was all worth it. It also highlights the fact that whilst you might not be working in the career field you’d see yourself in forever, any work experience or life experience allows you to develop employable skills. With this in mind, it may be worthwhile to start noting down the different things you’ve done and the skills you’ve gained from them. It will make the task of writing a CV a whole lot easier when it comes to it!

Whilst I’ve developed a range of different skills in various jobs, the most important lessons I’ve learnt are that some jobs are definitely not for me. It took spilling a full tray of drinks over the designer shoes of some distressed looking high-end customers in a champagne bar for me to recognise that I may not have a bright future in service and catering. However, these are incredibly important realisations to have whilst there is still the gift of time to explore as many career options as you’d like. Unfortunately, going through a few jobs that you don’t like so much is necessary to discover what you have passions for and could see yourself doing in the long term. This advice applies whatever stage you’re at when it comes to exploring career prospects. If you’re set on a plan and believe you know exactly what you want to do, make sure you’ve had first-hand experience so you’re aware of the day-to-day you can expect in your future. Alternatively, if you have no idea what you want to do, there’s no better way to figure it out than giving things a go to help narrow it down. The representatives from the Civil Services at the Autumn Careers Fair provided some valuable advice that consolidates this. They explained that you should take every experience offered to you because you never know where it could lead. They stressed the importance of keeping your options open and exploring a range of career prospects before deciding on one to gain some more focused experience in. Some jobs you may love and some jobs you may hate, but you’ll never know what you would have thought unless you seize opportunities.

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learnt from being in a job I hated is how much of an impact hating your job can have. It’s essential to remember that you’ll be devoting much of your time to a career so it should be something that you are genuinely interested in and want to be doing. This is why it’s so important that when thinking about long-term career prospects, you consider your passions and how you could apply them, the things you want to achieve, the environment you want to work in and the way you work best, as well as how you see yourself progressing and whether there is the opportunity to do this. Therefore, you should make the best use of the resources and opportunities easily accessible to you through  Careers Network to do your research and explore different options to make sure you find a job you love.

Josie Hart, 2nd Year Geography BA

My role as a research Officer with the Birmingham city council

Birmingham City Council Internship

My role as a research Officer with the Birmingham city council involved talking with families, involved in social services,  about their experiences of the Family group Conference (FGC), a fairly new service offered the Birmingham city council; I collated both quantitative and qualitative data about family member’s experiences and outcome post-service. My responsibilities included generating telephone and face-to-face interview questions, creating further information handouts to leave with families, to contact families’ social workers and conduct interviews. I additionally had the opportunity to attend a FGC (this is a family decision making and planning process, facilitated by an Independent Co-ordinator) intervention meeting and a review meeting to understand the procedure.

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Richard Rogerson / Birmingham City Council House, via Wikimedia Commons

 

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