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Research Assistant
About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

Although I already had some previous work experience, I lacked anything course related. Not to mention I wanted to get an idea of what it was like to put my skills to use in an office environment. I wanted to avoid overloading myself during my third year, so this scheme was a great chance. Unfortunately, I started looking a bit late and had no idea how to start. I wanted to find an organisation that I liked and approach them myself. My plan of action was to find companies that I was interested in, improve my CV and contact them. However, in each of these steps I had many questions and uncertainties. Therefore, I booked an appointment with the University Career service. Luckily they were able to assist me with every aspect, tips on how to contact organisation and improve my CV as well as resources for finding potential placements.

How did you find your placement/internship?

Speculative application

What made you choose this organisation for your placement/internship?

The resource that brought me to my placement was Voluntary Action Sheffield, after a quick chat with them; they gave me a booklet full of opportunities in a range of positions and areas. It did not take me long to shortlist the ones I liked most. What got me interested in my placement originally was the title however quickly I got interested in the mission and goals of the organisation. The position ended being different from the one I called for but I was happy nonetheless. The company was trying to help people but did not follow the conventional industry paths. On top of that, it was still in its early stages so I got the chance to see and contribute to what was involved in its development.

Main responsibilities

As a research assistant, I was set weekly areas to research: events on my first week, fundraising on my second and independent content creators on my third.

Typical day

I would find the information and resources online then present it in a concise manner with recommendations. I would then reflect on the feedback I received, make alteration to the presentation or expand the contents. Day to day tasks would vary depending on the progress of the week research area.

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

It was very interesting finding out more about the areas I was researching. However, finding out about how a start-up develops was more interesting. Grant and bursary research gave me an insight into the options of raising funds for a social enterprise. While event research helped me understand the importance of raising awareness as well, as gave me invaluable knowledge of event organising.

Challenging aspects

Since I had never been in a position of a researcher before I was uncertain on what the expectations and standards of work are. It was unusual to work so independently and it took some time to understand what approach to take for research. However, I managed to adapt the skills I had gained from my course. With feedback and independent learning, I found the approach that was right for me and would result in a high standard of work.

Has your time on placement influenced your future career choice?

Although I learned a lot from this experience, it was not what I originally looked for. Therefore, for the short term I will look for office experience or experience in a large structured organisation.

As a result of your placement/internship, what are your next steps in planning what you want to do after graduation?

Since the end of the placement, I have been thinking about my future career with the new experience and knowledge in mind. I started to consider paths I had not before. A career in research is an example. The placement helped understand the breadth of research areas, and gave me a new perspective on the occupation. It has also opened new options, as many of the masters degrees I am interested in require research experience.

Advice to students

My piece of advice to students

For others interested or hesitant about this scheme. I urge you to take it as not only will it give you an edge in the paths you are already considering, it will also open new ones you didn't even know were there. When looking for a placement I recommend consider many options, check out opportunities that might not seem perfect. You never know what or whom you will find. Think about doing it with a local charity or social enterprise. They are usually more interested in hearing you out and it is a great way to contribute to the Sheffield community. Now once you get it, use the feedback you get, it will help you learn quicker and walk away with a larger benefit. Do your best to study what the aims, goals and missions of your organisation are. Knowing how your tasks fit into the bigger picture will give you a better understanding of your work.

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Form completed: 30 May 2019

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