Hi Blog readers.
My name is Claire and I will be starting my Global Challenge internship with the British Consulate in Chicago in 2 weeks’ time.
I wanted to write my first blog entry before I leave to explain my journey to this point. I thought it might be useful to shed some light on the application process and encourage anyone I can to apply for a Global Challenge Award in the future.
In March of this year I received an email from my department, POLSIS, outlining this year’s internship scheme and the various positions on offer through the Careers and Employability Centre. I was on my year abroad in France at the time and one internship caught my eye. It was a 6 week placement working directly alongside the Deputy Consul General at the British Consulate in Chicago. As an International Relations student with a dream of working for the British Diplomatic Service, this was an opportunity I could not pass up regardless of the fact I was still studying in France.
I was well aware how popular an internship such as this would be but I felt it was worth a shot and at the very least I would gain experience of such a competitive application process.
The first stage of the application included two written pieces explaining my motivation, skills and experiences as well as a CV, academic reference and comprehensive budget. This took a lot of time and energy to get right, but I believe that putting the effort in at this stage helped me at the interview stages later on.
Due to the volume of applicants, I did not hear back about my invite to the interview for a good 6 weeks. During this time, I had to put the internship to the back of my mind and continue looking for other summer placements. Safe to say, when I did finally receive the email I was thrilled.
One week later I was back in England attending the workshop organised by the Careers and Employability Centre on interview and presentation skills. I found this workshop to be helpful and informative and it gave me a lot of confidence for my interview the following week.
So, the following week (after a return flight from France to sit two exams), I was back in Birmingham for my interview with a panel from the Careers and Employability Centre. We had already been given a presentation brief, which was to be a 5 minute presentation on our current skills and career ambitions. I practiced this with anyone who would listen, my family and friends knew my presentation inside out and this preparation definitely helped me with my nerves on the day. Following the presentation, I was asked a variety of skill and motivation based questions. The whole interview flew by and I actually enjoyed the experience.
Over the next few days I anxiously awaited news of whether I had reached the final stage of the interview process. When I finally received good news a few days later, I was over the moon. I now faced a phone interview with the Deputy Consul General himself before a decision would be made on the successful applicant.
I found the prospect of a phone interview quite daunting and I was definitely more nervous for the final interview. When the time came for the call, I still dressed in my interview outfit as I felt it helped me get into character! The phone call itself went really quickly but I felt I had been able to get across my knowledge and passion for the role. My heart was in my mouth throughout the conversation as I was aware this was my last chance to convince the Consulate I was right for the job. I had rehearsed many questions to ask the Deputy Consul General at the end of the call, but at this point my nerves took over and the first thing that came out was ‘are you going to the Olympics?’ I’m not sure quite where this came from but, fortunately, it sparked a conversation about our mutual excitement for the games and by the end of the interview I felt we had built a good rapport (and I managed to get in a few more relevant questions).
Now came one more anxious wait before I heard whether my application had been successful. Just a couple of days after my phone interview, I received the unbelievable news that I was being offered the internship and would be spending my summer at the British Consulate in Chicago.
With two weeks to go until I leave for the USA, the support of the Careers and Employability Centre has been invaluable and this truly is the opportunity of a lifetime. I will be sure to keep you updated during my time in Chicago but until then, I encourage all University of Birmingham students to keep an eye out for the opportunities on offer- you never know where you might end up!