Birmingham Undergraduate Internship Programme: Working in Alumni Relations

Before applying for the position of Alumni Relations and Recruitment Planner I struggled to speculate as to what the role would entail. When preparing for the interview, my first step was to make certain I knew what alumni were (I had a vague understanding that the term applied to previous students but was unsure of either its scope or limitations). Although unaware at the time, this enquiry marked my first of many steps into an education in the vast breadth and depth of work that goes on at the University to support all of its associates, from prospective students to long-time graduates.

My role is involved with both of these areas of support; looking for ways to strengthen the relationship between the College of Arts and Law (CAL) and its graduates and the possibilities in using this relationship to aid the recruitment of prospective students. Although this seems a vague description, its objectives manifest themselves in many areas of the College. Most of my work has been research based, investigating the Alumni Relations, Applicant Visit Day programmes and web page structures of competitor institutions before relaying reports back to my supervisor and relevant members of staff. This research has aided me in further developing independent working skills with a large focus on self-motivation and taking the initiative.

Furthermore, after drafting several reports (which I like to think have been improving throughout), I’ve been able to meet with many members of staff to discuss the proposals for improving our Alumni Relations. Now, roughly halfway through my time working in the department, some of my ideas are being advanced, particularly those concerning webpages.

This can largely be accredited to the incredibly approachable nature of the staff working within CAL particularly my supervisor, Charlotte Heap. Charlotte’s friendliness has been mirrored by everyone I’ve encountered through the College and everyone has been very accommodating. After the initial introductions were made, I have been working in a separate office to many of the people I wanted to discuss proposals with and every time I’ve asked a member of staff to meet with me I’ve been received with enthusiastic interest. This is something, as an intern, I had prepared myself not to be greeted with. However, any social obstacles that may have been created by being in a separate office have been non-existent as a result of this friendliness and I am very grateful for that.

Instead of being a hindrance, working in a separate office has allowed me to develop self-discipline and independent work skills. I’m currently in my fourth week and I think there’s a notable difference in the way I organise my days if compared with week one. My notepad is now the central hub of my planning in which I write daily task lists, prioritise potential actions and the deadlines I set myself. This, I feel, has been an invaluable experience and has not only produced a skill but a mind-set for future work.

I would also likely to quickly mention the service provided by the Careers Network (CN) during my internship. Although I’ve probably been a bit of a nuisance going on holiday for a week and missing two Careers workshops in the process, CN have been very understanding and Carl Jukes, who organises the sessions has agreed to meet with me individually to talk on subjects such as CVs and interview techniques. In my time at the University I have never been to the Careers Network, but having visited during my internship I would definitely recommend it to students.

Again, this links back to friendly and approachable staff who are not always visible to students in daily campus life. Many students, myself included, see no further than their lecturers, personal tutors and departmental admins, and seeing how many friendly and approachable people are working behind the scenes to keep the University running smoothly has provided me with a perspective and work ethic that I’m very glad to have gained.

Steve Harris

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About careersbham

Student Engagement Officer for Careers Network University of Birmingham

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