To celebrate #getexp2014 week in Student Careers & Skills, we asked Kimberley Brett, final year psychology student, to blog about her experiences as volunteer and Warwick intern and share her thoughts on the value, benefits and learning that she has taken from these varied experiences. I think she rather enjoyed herself too…!
I knew work experience was important…
From the start of my degree, I was acutely aware of the value of work experience and its breadth. Volunteering, active society membership, working part time or undertaking an internship – any and all of these options present important development opportunities. Experience looks good on your CV (and helps flesh out job applications) but it also shapes you as a person, helping you decide which direction you want to take. Getting experience improves your skillset and gives you evidence aplenty to support your claims of being a good team player, good communicator or strong leader.
The benefits of volunteering
In my first year at Warwick, I started to volunteer with MIND, a charity which helps people with mental health problems. My role was to facilitate a support group for vulnerable adults, which was challenging but also enjoyable and rewarding. I found that many people just wanted someone to talk to – and to listen to them in a non-judgemental manner. Through spending time with people in this group and listening to their worries and concerns, I was able to sustain meaningful conversations and positive interactions with the clients. I definitely improved my listening and communication skills and feel this will be invaluable, whatever my future path.
Volunteering can help you utilise and develop different skills and for me, the chance to secure further training in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA), covering issues from schizophrenia to suicide. Work experience and/volunteering can offer great opportunities to get professional training (sometimes working towards certification) that you may not otherwise have had access to.
Warwick Volunteers offer a wide range of valuable experiences from teaching to supporting others – take a look!
Working as an intern at Warwick University
The most beneficial experience was my internship through Warwick Undergraduate Internship Programme (WUIP), where I worked with the Learning and Development Centre (LDC) during summer 2013. I am interested in education, which was my main motivation for applying but I also wanted to explore opportunities within Human Resources, so this seemed a good way to combine those areas and find out what it’s like to work in a professional environment.
After I submitted my application I was invited to an interview, which was good experience and will certainly help me prepare for future interviews. There were around ten other prospective interns and the selection process seemed to very a little between departments: some had additional tests during their interviews, such as short presentations or problem solving. Although daunting, this is great experience as many graduate assessment centres use these exercises as part of the selection process.
Another benefit of the internship was networking. Not only does this enable you to gain insight into other people’s jobs – and helped expand your LinkedIn network! – It’s also quite enjoyable. Finding out about the different roles in HR, what people did and how they worked gave me a real insight into the breadth and scope of HR. And thanks to meeting staff in IATL I have since become a lead learner on one of their projects. A really positive outcome!
Developing my skills
Through my time at the LDC, I was involved in researching and writing reports, website design, conducting and editing interviews we filmed on ‘How students learn’ as part of an online course. I made a suggestion to conduct these interviews peer-to-peer, and it was great to have this idea acknowledged. So, I made a big contribution by conducting these interviews as a student interviewing other students. It was really interesting to have experience working in a professional environment and really helped me understand the expectations. It was also a lot of fun!
One of the most challenging things was having no deadlines. As a student constantly working towards deadlines, this was certainly a (welcome) change. Therefore, I had to plan and organise my time more effectively to be the most productive and I learnt to prioritising the different aspects of work to ensure the interview were completed. Not only that but I also had to help get the website ready for the ‘go live’ date. As the videos are part of an online course, many academic staff will see my work and it could have a direct impact on the teaching methods they choose to adopt.
Discovering my strengths
During the internship I had a professional ‘strengths’ test and this gave me a better sense of self-awareness and helped me make sense of previous experiences. One strength was ‘unconditionality’; being able to accept and respect people for who they are, which I perhaps developed through my volunteer work.
During my internship, I used the test to focus on improving my weaknesses and utilising my strengths in the various roles. The internship blog was a great reflective tool which allowed me to capture all of this. A real benefit of the strengths profile was helping me think about the type of working environment that suit me and allow me to draw on my strengths.
What does all of this mean?
Well, I think it shows the value of work experience and more importantly, that experience can come in many forms. Graduate employers will expect you to have experience, so don’t put it off until you graduate! Through my experience, I definitely feel more prepared for the next stage. Practical experience is key in showing employers that you are more than a degree classification. They want to recruit interesting people with great skills – so make sure you’re one of them. What’s stopping you?