An internship where you aren’t treated as an intern

Shiani Felton – Mentoring Project Assistant with Careers Network

birmingham_mmb_22_university_of_birmingham

Mattbuck [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Having just completed my year in industry placement as part of my Business Management degree, one of the key things that I have learnt is that you never know if you will like working in a role or a sector until you give it a go! I had never really given much thought to working in Higher Education (and I found that a lot of the other interns felt the same) so I think that doing a BUIP internship is a really good chance to learn more about what sort of roles exist at the university outside of academia.

I decided to apply for my role because the job description sounded really varied and also indicated that the intern would be given significant responsibility. This appealed to me because I am motivated by knowing that I am doing something that will have an impact.

I have spent 8 weeks working in the Careers Network as the Mentoring Project Assistant and it has been a fantastic experience. I think that far too often interns are asked to complete odd jobs that nobody else wants to do or aren’t given enough work to fill their days and my BUIP internship couldn’t have contrasted this more!

On my first day I was given an overview of the university structure and introduced to the team. I was then presented with my project plan which outlined a number of tasks for me to get stuck into. From there, it was down to me. I was given the freedom to manage my own time and to complete my work in a way that suited me. I think one of the best things about the internship is the fact that I was given the responsibility to take on meaningful tasks that will enhance the university’s mentoring schemes. The work that I’ve done will improve the experience for both students and mentors who volunteer and I think it’s really rewarding to know that my work will impact so many people.

Before my internship, I didn’t know much about the university’s mentoring schemes (which I would really recommend applying for now that I do!) but I quickly picked up an understanding of why they exist and how they work.

My first task was to complete a competitor analysis of university mentoring schemes across the UK and internationally to identify our strengths and any opportunities for improvement. This enhanced my reporting and research skills, as I needed to draw out relevant information and then outline my key findings. Additionally, I joined my manager at an event for mentoring coordinators across the UK. The aim of the event was to share best practice and advice on running a mentoring scheme and it was really interesting to meet staff from other universities to hear how their schemes differed from ours.

Once I had collated all this information, I was able to devise a number of recommendations to enhance our existing mentoring schemes. My manager was really enthusiastic about my suggestions and a number of them have already been fulfilled ready for the next academic year!

My other major deliverable was designing and creating two training courses on Canvas for mentors and student mentees. I started by writing the content, which required strong written communication skills to ensure it is informative and engaging. I had to consider what was relevant and important for both audiences to prepare them for taking part in mentoring.

After a number of drafts and redrafts, I was ready to upload my content to Canvas. Having used it as a student, I anticipated that this would be quite a simple process. It turns out that formatting on Canvas was a lot more difficult than I expected and by the end of my internship when I had completed and edited the courses, it was really rewarding to know that I had created them from start to finish and that they were now ready to use. For students reading this, you might even take my course yourself!

Overall, I would really recommend completing a BUIP internship, particularly in the Careers Network. I was made to feel really welcome and like a valued member of the team from day one and my manager took the time to offer support where I needed it. On top of this, being given an important project to deliver on definitely isn’t something offered by many internships so it’s a great opportunity to develop new skills.

For anyone lucky enough to secure an internship, I would give the following tips to get the most out of the experience:

  • Ask lots of questions and take the time to make sure you understand the task and any necessary background information.
  • Set yourself deadlines to stay on top of your workload and manage your project.
  • Get to know the team you’re in and what they do. This will help you build up professional contacts and will also be beneficial if you need advice or information for your project as you’ll know who to go to

 

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About careersbham

Student Engagement Officer for Careers Network University of Birmingham

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