By Olivia Taylor
Last September, when I was going into my third year studying at the University of Strathclyde (BA Hons Human Resource Management and Psychology), I, like every student, was beginning to think about summer internships for the following year. I applied for various internships over the duration of my third year and was going through the different stages of application processes for these internships. By the time companies were at the final selection stages, COVID had hit, and all of the internships I had applied to were cancelled. That’s when I put a post on Linkedin reaching out for help, which thanks to my Linkedin contacts, John Evans, Transformation and Development Director at South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE), got in touch, telling me about a summer internship opportunity within their HR department and how to put myself forward. I was successful in gaining the internship.
I was welcomed into the organisation and was able to get involved in countless projects, tasks and jobs within the HR department. I got really valuable insight into recruitment, employee wellbeing, onboarding, employee relations, training, learning and development and performance management, as well as learning about how to use the HR systems. Some examples of things I was responsible for were creating and distributing various forms and documents, tracking employee responses and data, helping to shortlist candidates and shadowed interviews in the recruitment process, I redesigned the onboarding process and created a new induction pack including all relevant information in a clear and concise way, I helped create an employee wellbeing toolkit, I worked on the performance management process, and the list goes on! During my time at SOSE, I was introduced to a huge number of tasks and projects and was able to work collaboratively across the organisation to complete these. I had the chance to communicate my ideas, get involved in any specific projects that interested me and expand my knowledge and skills hugely.
I was able to put the methodology and theory I have learned over my years studying HRM into practise and gain some really valuable insight into my future career path. I can honestly say that having worked in such an inclusive, innovative and challenging organisation I have gained skills and knowledge that will help me to progress not only through my final year at university but also in my future career.
The opportunity that SOSE and John particularly gave me will allow me to graduate with first hand experience, be able to complete my dissertation and assignments with extra knowledge and hopefully get a successful place on either a graduate scheme or a role in HR. I am one of the fortunate students who has managed to get an internship this year due to COVID-19, however, regardless of that there is still a huge lack of companies offering work experience to students. Without being able to get involved in work experience it can cause several difficulties, one being struggling to get a job when graduating but also without putting theory into practise, how are you supposed to know that this career is 100% what you want to do. There are huge differences in what you learn in a lecture in comparison to what the role actually entails.
It really is such an important thing for students to gain experience while studying, especially nowadays that a lot of graduate jobs require at least some form of experience. I would really encourage any employers who don’t currently offer work experience opportunities or those who could be doing more, to try and offer these opportunities to students as it makes such a huge impact on our futures. The benefits of offering work experience are mutual for both employers and students, allowing employers to get some fresh insight and ideas from motivated students, alongside numerous other benefits.
I also would just like to add a piece of advice to other students who aren’t managing to find work experience opportunities, please don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! For me, I decided to build up my LinkedIn profile and write a post explaining my background and situation of my lack of work experience and asked for people to like and share with their other contacts. You would be surprised how far a simple post can reach - use your initiative and it will pay off!
A final huge thank you to John and the rest of the team I worked with over my internship, thank you for giving me the chance to gain such valuable experience. You have all made such a positive impact on me and have made me so excited to graduate and get back into working professionally within HR!
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