We’ve got a great guest blog contribution this week from Anna Grant, 2021 University of Edinburgh alumna, who reflects on her recent internship with the Graduate Career Advantage Scotland (GCAS) Programme. Read on for Anna’s story…
Anna, can you tell us about your career journey to date?
I graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2021 with a degree in German and History. During my studies, and after graduating, I was unsure what career I wanted to go into, and I struggled to find work in the post-pandemic job market. After a period of unemployment, I spent a year and a half simultaneously working as a Call Handler at NHS 24, as a Front of House Assistant across performing arts venues in Aberdeen, and volunteering as a Receptionist and Administrator for a charity supporting people with autism.
What prompted you to apply for the GCAS internship?
I really valued doing meaningful work by helping people, but wanted a role which allowed me to utilise the skills I’d gained in my degree and further my professional development. My friend recommended the GCAS programme, which provided careers support and funded internships for graduates who have faced barriers to employment by working with employers across Scotland. At the beginning of 2023, I applied for an internship within the GCAS team as I was excited about the opportunity to help other graduates who had struggled to find work. I was hoping to challenge myself, identify and work on my strengths and weaknesses, and learn more about what I might like to do long term.
What did your internship involve?
In April 2023, I joined the GCAS team as the programme was winding down operations, so my internship was split into two stages. For the first three months, I provided operational support to help the project run smoothly on a day-to-day basis. For example, I proofread and edited internship adverts, processed vacancy applications, triaged the shared inbox, and ran the social media accounts. I gradually took on increased responsibilities such as communications, website management, finance, and presenting to graduates during online sessions. The second half of my internship involved tying up the project. I interviewed employers to gain insightful tips for graduates, wrote reports to demonstrate the impact of the programme, and was responsible for creating legacy resources for the GCAS website.
The GCAS team had a hybrid work model, so I was in the office three days a week and worked from home for two days. I liked this balance and learning about how to work effectively as a team, in person and remotely.
Looking back, what are your reflections on your internship experience?
My internship has really improved my confidence in workplace skills around conducting myself in a professional office environment and working as part of a team to deliver a project. My previous role as a Call Handler was very process-driven which meant everyone had to work in the same way. It was therefore an adjustment to work in a team where everyone was responsible for managing their own workload; I enjoyed this responsibility. I learned to consider my colleagues’ roles and work styles and the overall team objectives to prioritise my own work.
A professional and personal achievement was stepping outside of my comfort zone to try new things. A lot of my responsibilities such as communications, finance, reporting and website management were things I had not done before my internship, so it was initially daunting to take these on. I am proud that this has given me valuable transferable skills and experience which I can build upon.
What are your top tips Anna for students considering an internship in the future?
I would definitely recommend considering an internship, even if aspects of the role or sector are completely new to you. A supportive internship environment is the perfect chance to develop new skills and build your confidence. It’s really valuable experience that will strengthen job applications, and may lead to other opportunities within the company or through networking in your role. It will also allow you to identify the values and company culture which are important to you.
It’s helpful to set goals at the beginning of your internship and reflect on them throughout. These can be small or large goals, and can range from specific workplace tasks to transferable skills such as teamwork and organisation. As long as they are meaningful to you, they’re worth working towards.
What’s next for Anna…
We caught up with Anna shortly after she completed her GCAS internship in September and are delighted to share that she has secured a new role as an Administration Officer at Forestry and Land Scotland. Anna told us she is excited to use the skills she gained at GCAS to contribute to the important work of managing Scotland’s forests and mitigating the impacts of the climate crisis!
Many thanks Anna and good luck in your new role.