By Alea Ibrahim, Communications Intern for EVOC 150 Heritage Programme
Sweaty palms, cotton dry mouth, raised heartbeat. “Hello, I am Alea. I am here for an interview” “Yes, of course, have a seat” the lady smiles and points at the huge purple sofa, the kind that looks like it could swallow you if it tried. A gulp of water and a quick look around. “If you would like to come through with me”. I am guided into a room with friendly faces beaming at me, the door falls shut behind me. This was the beginning of my year as the EVOC 150 Communications Intern.
Grown-ups had always made it sound as if a degree pushes open every door for you. Jobs grow on trees, you just have to reach out and pick one. In the end, I had two degrees but still no job. Was there a secret code someone had forgotten to tell me about? Fresh out of uni and released into the wild with no guidance, no experience and no idea where to start I fired out applications left, right and centre. The more rejections I received the deeper I dived into the application frenzy to fend off self-doubt and anxiety creeping in. “We regret to inform you…”, “The right candidate had more experience in…” With the number of rejection letters I received, I could have easily redecorated my room... TWICE.
Wind of change
I visited my university’s careers service with little to no helpful advice. After 2 years I found my cure in Adopt an Intern (AAI), a non-profit organisation that recruits graduates for paid business internships and opportunities. AAI aims at breaking down barriers and supporting struggling graduates in a range of programmes, one of which is their mentorship scheme. The programme matches unemployed or underemployed graduates with an industry professional who offers career guidance and advice over a fixed period to help graduates identify their needs and get that famous foot in the door. My mentor was incredibly supportive, understanding and helpful. Our first meeting gave me more confidence, insight and guidance than all my careers service visits combined. Within a couple of months I had the first interviews flying in, including one for EVOC’s post which I had also found on the AAI website.
In all my previous internships I felt like a bit of a token. I was a spare wheel making sure there were coffee and biscuits for everyone while I watched the grand masters at their work hoping to peck up their wisdom crumbs. The other end of my internship-spectrum were glorified PA posts vastly stretching the intern card demanding unpaid overtime doing the work that was beneath properly paid staff.
EVOC was different. From day one I felt valued and trusted. I was given responsibilities and free hand. I learned a lot in this year. Not only in the form of hard skills but also about myself, my abilities, what I can achieve and actually want to achieve. Working in a tight-knit team to stem events such as the pamper day for carers on Carers Rights Day or a huge birthday party for Flora Stevenson at Flora Stevenson Primary School, representing EVOC 150 and networking at a range of conferences and events and having the chance to take on my own little projects really boosted my skill set and confidence in my abilities over the year.
So what is next for the intern?
The end of the internship is crawling nearer and nearer. Facing the job market again still twisted my stomach a bit but I faced the challenge a lot more relaxed with a good portion of confidence, which paid off. I went from zero interviews not 2 years ago to interviews for almost every job I applied for and my next adventure is just around the corner.
My advice for other struggling graduates is: Do not doubt yourself. Use the resources on offer for you and if that does not seem to work, change course.
My advice for other employers: Value your interns and put some trust in us. You might be surprised how much we can achieve if our tasks exceed note-taking. We are not just here to stock-pile names for our CVs. Some fresh wind and a new pair of eyes might be exactly what you need.
I'll go and get myself some coffee now.
The EVOC 150 project is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with thanks to players of the National Lottery.