For the last few weeks I have been completing an internship in the eLearning Team of CLAD (Centre for Learning and Development). I have been creating 5 exemplar courses on the University’s new virtual learning environment, Canvas. As a member of the Birmingham Undergraduate Internship Programme I have being undergoing training to improve my employability and to prepare me for the kind of training that I will experience in whatever job I pursue after I graduate.
This has involved completing online diversity training and attending a fire training session. When I was first told that I would be completing the same training that staff have to undertake when they join the university, I was very surprised am only an intern for six weeks. However having completed the training I feel as though my mind set has moved from being a student, to being more like a member of staff with a responsibility to think about issues such making sure I know where fire exits and assembly points are in case of an emergency. This is quite a shift from the sometimes blasé view that students have of fire alarms, thanks to bad experiences of flatmates accidentally setting off fire alarms in the middle of the night.
Over the course of four weeks Carl Jukes from Careers Network gave presentations and workshops on a range of topics including:
- Interview skills (including Skype and Telephone Interviews)
- Assessment Centres
- Professional etiquette
- Making presentations
Although I have been able to attend several events and workshops run by the Careers Network during the last two years of my studies it has been invaluable to receive further training that has been especially targeted to the internship. After each week of training I feel I have been able to put something that I have learnt into practise. For example, as part of my internship I attended the 10th Annual Teaching and Learning Conference hosted by the University. Throughout the Conference I was meeting new people and trying to make contacts with people who would be able to help me during my internship. Thanks to the advice I received, such as trying to maintain positive body language, I was able to talk to several people that have been of great assistance during my internship.
For the last training session we were asked to prepare and present a five minute presentation on a choice of two topics. I chose: “What have you contributed to your host department during your internship and how has it improved your employability for the future?”
While it was difficult to think of the content for my presentation initially, I began to map out ideas and I soon felt I had plenty to talk about. I then began to create a PowerPoint presentation. Following Carl’s advice I tried to limit the number of slides I created so that I would not feel pressured to rush through the content in the short time limit. To try and make the PowerPoint more interesting I created some GIFs with some software that I have learnt how to use as part of my internship. I was really pleased with how the PowerPoint came together and after some practice run-throughs to ensure that I would stick to my five minute time limit I felt as prepared as possible.
In the past making presentations to audiences has been a particular weakness of mine and I have received feedback saying that I had a tendency to rush, making it difficult to understand what I was saying. I am also aware that I have a tendency to say “um” when nervous. Knowing this weaknesses made me especially nervous about the presentation but I was also determined that I would use this presentation to demonstrate an improvement in my confidence and delivery.
Members of the departments of each of the different interns and other university members of staff had all being invited to attend the presentations. As Trevor, the Team Manager for the team I am working in, had a meeting to attend before he could come, I ended up being the last intern to go up. I have to admit that by the time I had watched all the other interns make excellent presentations I was incredibly nervous.
While I was not as poised as I had hoped when I first began my presentation, the preparation beforehand paid off and I began to relax and my delivery improved. After the presentation I met with Trevor to review my performance and look at how I can improve. We both agreed that I still say the dreaded “um” too much while nervous, but that I have taken a significant step forward. Hopefully by adopting techniques such as focusing on my breathing I will be able to keep my nerves under better control in future.
While I am not sure that I would go as far as saying that the experience was enjoyable, I am really glad I got the opportunity to practise my presentation skills as I am sure that I will need to make plenty more in the future. It is for this reason that I would highly recommend the Birmingham Undergraduate Internship Programme to others in the future.