Isik Ogutcu, a recent alumna in Biotechnology, reflects on her summer taking part in the Edinburgh Award (Work and Volunteering Experience) and the benefits she gained. She also gives some great top tips for those interested in participating in future Awards or virtual internships.
I have recently finished my undergraduate degree in Biotechnology and this autumn, I will be starting a masters degree in Entrepreneurship. In order to make this transition easier and to improve my business knowledge further, I took part in the Edinburgh Award and now that I am at the end of this experience, I am really glad that I made such a decision. It has been a great personal journey of improvement and reflection.
The Edinburgh Award process is unique for everyone because each participant can choose to develop themselves in different areas. For me, these were managing challenging situations, decision making and written communication. Because of my background in biotechnology, I was able to apply the mentioned skills within a scientific context but I had limited experience in solving and communicating my decisions for business problems. Therefore, I made this transition from science to business the main focus of my award journey.
Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, I tried to improve my skills through the Award by participating in virtual internships on InsideSherpa and Bright Network. Admittedly, in the beginning, I was not sure how virtual internships could replace face-to-face work experiences. However, I was pleased to find out that virtual internships were actually very beneficial:
- They allowed me to learn a lot about the consulting industry.
- I have become accustomed to working remotely. I think that in the future, learning and working online may become the norm and I am glad that with this unique experience, I have become much more open to that.
- After finishing multiple virtual internships on consulting and design & branding, I have also become better at adapting to change, making reasonable business decisions by analysing the present data (e.g. market statistics and trends) and preparing executive summary slides, financial forecast reports, implementation plan summaries and many more.
For those of you who are interested in the Edinburgh Award and/or want to try out virtual internships, here are my top tips:
- Before starting an internship, it is important for you to decide what you want to gain from the experience. This way, you will have a set aim and it will be easier for you to stay motivated while completing the tasks.
- Participating in the Edinburgh Award has taught me that reflection is a very important part of the journey for improvement. No matter what type of work experience you are doing, I would suggest that you keep regular notes about how much you have developed and then read back on them to see how much you have grown.
- It is always good to plan ahead. I think it is very helpful to keep an agenda for scheduling your work. This way, you will not be overwhelmed by the number of tasks that you need to do.
- Especially for virtual internships, it can be hard to sit in front of your laptop for a long time. It is therefore good to set little milestones and take breaks every time you reach them; whether it’s going for a short walk, having a tea/coffee break or having a quick call with friends.
Being open to new experiences will always be very helpful for you. When I look back now, I am very grateful that I did the Edinburgh Award because without its reflection assignments, it would have been much harder for me to stay motivated in an area that was quite new to me, especially during such unprecedented times.
All in all, if you are interested in the Edinburgh Award, I think that you should definitely take part in it. It not only guides you to develop your professional skills but it also helps you to grow as a person.