At the University of Glasgow’s Internship Hub, students are invited to apply for a wide range of internships located both on and off campus. Stephanie Martin, who is in her junior honours year of English Literature and History, discusses what makes a successful internship for undergraduate students by evaluating her own experience working with the College of Arts Marketing and Conversion team.
The first lecture I ever attended at the University of Glasgow was about employability. Internships were highlighted as an essential way to make yourself an employable graduate.
An internship is temporary employment that gives you some first-hand experience of a specific job-role, while the employer gets some meaningful assistance or the opportunity to utilise a fresh perspective in their field. Some of them are paid and some of them are not, some have greater demands than others and some are more subject specific than others.
It’s true that a crucial aspect to having a successful internship is growing and developing as an employee, but internships are also a valuable tool in facilitating personal growth as an individual.
Finding the right opportunity
One thing I learned about shopping for an opportunity was to be open-minded. Often, the immediate impression you will get of an internship is that they’re looking for someone who is unlike you, especially if you’re an Arts student. But if you take the time to read about the specifics of the role you might surprise yourself.
Always remember that if you stick too much within your comfort zone, you might not experience enough challenge to facilitate learning. Think about what personal and professional development you want to achieve from an internship and look for these qualities while you search for an opportunity.
As an Arts student, I never pictured myself in a marketing position. But when I saw the opportunity on offer with the College of Arts at the University of Glasgow, I realised that I fitted the essential and desirable criteria that the department were looking for. I imagined myself in the position and took some time visualising the day-to-day demands of the role before deciding to apply. My application was successful, and I was quickly invited to an interview.
The interview took place on level two of the Fraser Building. This was really beneficial, as it was a familiar environment and the chances of turning up late due to getting lost were eliminated! I could relax while waiting for my name to be called and I had prepared so many notes in advance of the interview, it was good to have a calming atmosphere to read over them.
In preparation for an interview it’s always good to have in mind the skills and abilities you already have as well as ones you would like to learn and develop. This way you can discuss not only why you are a credible candidate to the employer but why this internship is a valuable opportunity to you.
As my interview was in panel format, there were three women facing the chair I was sat in. I was certainly nervous but undeterred and I tried my best to answer the questions I was asked as I had prepared. There were some questions I was not prepared for, especially when I was asked “What is your greatest achievement at university so far?”, but I tried to stay calm and give measured responses despite the pressure I felt.
I was offered the internship the same afternoon!
I was thrilled and determined to make the most of this opportunity. I listed some targets for myself so that I could reflect on my progress. This is a great way to evaluate the success of your internship. My line-manager always designed my work load in accordance with my development, as well as utilising my help with her own departmental duties.
The first goal I set myself was to become a confident communicator over the phone as well as in person. This was something very personal to me, having battled mental illness for the past few years, and the internship provided a vital opportunity to develop my confidence as an employee by getting experience of liaising with professionals, university academics and prospective students.
A second goal I set for myself was to become efficient at using office technology. Before the internship, the prospect of compiling an Excel spreadsheet was a daunting one but now I am comfortable at using this, as well as other Microsoft tools. These skills will not only benefit me when it comes to future jobs but will be very useful in my studies and personal life.
With a long-term ambition of securing postgraduate study and hopefully gaining an academic future, I set myself a third goal to develop my research skills. The internship often required me to conduct market research, which enabled me to get creative about approaching research and to discover online databases I was hitherto unaware of.
Challenges and growth
But the Doors Open Days project that I was asked to run really enhanced my research and presentation skills. I spent a few days across Glasgow’s Doors Open week investigating some of the resources available within Glasgow to Arts students. I interviewed a number of people from across the events I attended (one of whom was a University of Glasgow alumna) and compiled their responses to my questions with information I had gathered about the events. I then created a number of posts for the College of Arts’ Instagram page and had the autonomy to publish them myself.
This was a massive amount of responsibility to me and through this I developed not only my research skills by interviewing people and using physical resources to gather information, but my confidence and presentation ability. I learned to be creative and bold in my approach, and I learned a lot about Glasgow along the way!
I also learned a lot about university processes. I have a much better understanding of how the university takes in students, after assisting the department during Clearing, and I know a lot more about postgraduate study, having edited a number of postgraduate research award blogs. This knowledge will benefit me in the future as I look towards postgraduate study myself and has instilled in me a greater sense of pride in the University, which I have taken forward by getting more involved with the student body.
The most essential growth I experienced while interning with the College of Arts Marketing and Conversion team was that I became emotionally and practically ready for professional employment beyond university.
Until now my experience in the workplace came mainly from part-time jobs, where my input is fleeting and minimal contact with senior staff. But now I am confident when approaching managerial or senior members of staff and in my work abilities and can produce work to a high standard autonomously. If it were not for this experience, I would be looking at graduating in a couple of years’ time with very little confidence in my abilities.
So, what makes a successful internship?
For me, the mark of a successful internship is growth, both personal and professional. With all of the skills I learned and developed over the course of my internship experience, I can definitely say that I have grown a lot.
So now that I’ve come so far, I can’t wait to see what the next two years of my degree brings! I will certainly be quick and self-assured about applying for future internships and I will eternally value everything I learned with the College of Arts.
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