As an Alumni Relations Project Assistant I have been entrusted with various responsibilities in several projects over the course of my projected 10-week Birmingham Undergraduate Internship Programme (BUIP). After having completed a successful four week internship in Shanghai last summer via the Gateway Bursary provided by donors from alumni, I felt compelled to return the favour by helping the University around enhancing student experience and employability.
Initially, despite feeling very enthusiastic and eager, I was also feeling quite anxious because I did not know what to expect. The job description sounded very interesting yet very challenging. Nevertheless, I was anticipating a relaxed work culture and office environment after having been introduced to my colleagues prior to starting. Deep down, I knew that everything would make sense and fall into perspective on the job.
From my very first day, I have been treated as an equally valued and respected member of the Alumni Relations team. A great deal of time was invested into my induction and I have been given the privilege of a large desk, personal email account and I have also been placed within the College of Social Sciences (CoSS) team structure. My first two weeks were largely spent on miscellaneous activities including:
- Educating myself about Alumni Relations through conversation, reports and web content and familiarising myself with office jargon.
- Designing a poster for the CoSS charity raffle in which we almost raised £300 for the Circles of Influence campaign to give children the best chance at beating brain cancer
- Writing a report outlining recommendations for the International Experience Welcome Week using a plethora of data from the Birmingham Student Survey 2015
- Supporting the Development Alumni & Business Engagement (DABE) division in assisting the roaming photographers as a Graduation social media monitor.
The following week my line manager drafted up a list of projects that she wanted me to lead and stipulated the outputs and deadline for each project. The first project required a short video profile of alumni for each postgraduate programme offered within the CoSS. Thus I was tasked with identifying and contacting suitable alumni from programme lists and managing all the responses and sending all correspondence to be added to the Raiser’s Edge Database. This really tested my communication, analytical, ICT and planning & organisation skills. In the beginning, I made a few mistakes which I was able to rectify and avoid later. Despite being disappointed at only confirming just over half the number of alumni for each programme, I was told this was double compared to other colleges across the university and that I should be proud of myself! In hindsight, I acknowledged that I should have created an efficient project management framework through pragmatic use of all the available functions on Microsoft Excel and Outlook.
My next assignment involves producing a new student guide for incoming 1st year Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS) and Social Policy providing useful information and advice for students from alumni. This will be my most challenging project as it demands lots of creativity; a skill that I am yet to exploit to my full potential and therefore I need considerable development in this area.
Additional training sessions have given me an insight into professional insight. I was under the impression that I was knowledgeable and competent in most areas but little did I know how wrong I was! For example, I learned that the subject of an email could be the difference between the recipient opening or ignoring the email and the importance of wearing a name badge on the right hand side so the person shaking hands or greeting has easy eye contact with both the person and the badge as a way to help remember the name.
What I have really enjoyed about my internship so far is the great degree of freedom and support I have had to manage and deliver my projects in the way that I want to. I have also had the luxury of completing tasks for various people from different departments. Help and support is always available whenever I need advice or clarification. In addition, there is nobody standing over my shoulder and breathing down my neck telling me what or what not to do. It’s very easy to take advantage but I try my best not to!
So after having completed my internship, I can confidently say that I have had one of my most memorable experiences yet! It has been an amazing ten weeks and I have thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. The bulk of my time was spent creating two student guides for POLSIS and Social Policy students. Working on this project completely changed my understanding of creativity as prior to it I thought it was magically conjuring ideas out of thin air.
The late Steve Jobs was full of insightful quotes about creativity and innovation and he once famously said, ‘‘Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.’’
Thus, randomly coming across this quote changed my strategy ahead of the project. After making a client brief for Design and Publications, I used two student guides from the Birmingham Business School and the College of Arts and Law as a template to produce my own by extrapolating certain information from the latter in addition to my own ideas.
Having finished the guides one and a half weeks before the deadline, I was asked to help out on a number of small projects including editing infographic slides, alumni photographs and updating information on the University of Birmingham website.
All in all, I feel a lot more confident and able to pursue my career ambitions and long term goals. Upon reflection, I appreciate that senior staff and fellow colleagues want to help you as much as possible and they are there every step of the way. As the poster in the background in the image of me above legitimately claims; ‘‘TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK.’’ So if you’re contemplating whether or not to apply for the BUIP, the decision is a no-brainer! I have been fortunate enough to undertake a range of work experience roles and internships, and this has definitely been the most valuable and rewarding experience yet! So don’t delay and apply today!