“So what are you planning to do after you graduate?” Ah, the dreaded question that makes undergraduates break into a cold sweat. There are many people who come to university knowing exactly what career field they want to pursue afterwards, however, there are also people who have no idea. If you do know, then great, good for you! However, if you belong to the latter category, fear not, because trust me when I say this, you don’t need to have your dream career figured out by your early 20s. In today’s world, the average person changes jobs around 12 times. Chances are that you will not spend all of your life at the same job and your dream career will constantly change. For me, that is an exciting prospect because it means that you would develop your career organically – continuously learning different skills from various working environments and applying them wherever you go.
It is nearly impossible to know if a job is perfect for you unless you get a feel of that particular field, and I think your time at university is the perfect opportunity to experiment with different job sectors. The summer holidays are incredibly long (too long!), so I would suggest you use some of this time to gain as much experience as possible. At Queen Mary, we have a fantastic Careers and Enterprise Centre, through which you can find part-time jobs, work experience and internships. This summer I took part in QProjects, which is an internship scheme that is organised by the Careers team every year. QProjects places QM students as Project Leaders on challenging projects within local charities.
I did my internship with the East End Community Foundation (EECF). EECF is a philanthropy advisor and grant maker. This means they fund grass-root organisations, issuing nearly £1 million annually to charities in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham. My job was to help EECF with their Vital Signs 2017 Report. A Vital Sign Report uses a combination of existing research and surveys with local residents to identify key issues affecting local communities across the UK. I collated data from the surveys, and then analysed the data to find trends and patterns. I also worked as a researcher to find out more about the problems that affect the East End of London. My internship was originally meant to be for six weeks but EECF invited me to stay with them longer to work on their social media strategy. Here, I got to write case studies to promote the brilliant job that EECF has been doing, as well as working on their Facebook, Twitter and their website to raise their profile.
I had the best time working there! This was my first proper office-based job, and I got so much out of it: I honed my research and evaluation skills, got to go and network at a business breakfast at the Sky Gardens in Canary Wharf, learned about collaborating in a team and working within deadlines. I also got a full experience of a professional working life: I attended meetings with CEOs, contributed to strategy meetings within my department, and enjoyed being treated to staff lunches after big events.
My colleagues were incredibly supportive and welcoming, and to be honest, they have set my expectations for future employers impeccably high. I got to have 1-2-1 meetings with each member of staff and learn about their roles, which provided me with an invaluable insight into the charity sector. In terms of making the most out of your internship, my advice would be to be enthusiastic and to really take a keen interest in the work that you company is involved in. For example, I wanted to find out more about the charities that EECF supported so they generously arranged for me to go and visit some of the projects.
The process of getting this internship was enlightening in itself. I had to write an application outlining why I was suitable for this role and then I had to attend a Graduate-style interview, which was very beneficial because now I know what to expect after I leave university.
This internship was eye-opening because I got to learn about a sector I hadn’t considered working in before, and now this will go on my list as one of my potential career pathways. On top of that, this term, I am doing QInsight, which is a programme designed to provide students with a better understanding of the civil service. I’ll let you know how it goes, and if you are interested in finding out more about career opportunities at QM, follow the link below:
QM Careers and Enterprise: http://careers.qmul.ac.uk/