From Intern to Coordinator, a step-by-step journey

Career Advice
02 September 2015 | Career Advice | Guest Author

CarmenA short while ago, I wrote a piece for Grad's Corner on realising your full potential. In it, I described my journey from a confused student with no set career goals to a determined student with vague-but-optimistic career goals – which, to be honest, felt like a tremendous improvement.

Now that I have gone a bit further along this path, I’d like to reflect on this journey again, and hopefully share some of the insights I picked up along the way.

The Internship I mentioned in my previous blog was for an organisation within my University, GUEST (Glasgow University Environmental Sustainability Team). It was voluntary and it involved bits of graphic design, marketing and events management.

However, I became so involved with the team and committed to our goals, that by the end of my internship I had a voice in the decision-making process that decided what the paid roles for the new year would be.

Having identified some areas for improvement, I have proposed a new Communications role to be set up, for which I successfully applied once it was opened up to new applicants. This has been an amazing opportunity, which I felt truly rewarded my previous hard work.

Being a new role, while I had been given set aims and objectives, it was up to me to decide how to fulfil them. After a while, I realised that internal communications was the area that interested me most. It was quite a challenging new venture, as we had some very serious miscommunication problems.

I therefore took the time to explore the situation and listen to the team to identify what they needed, as well as taking advantage of every opportunity to learn from my peers and our advisers from within the University.

Soon enough, I discovered that what made me happiest in my role was to support the rest of the team so that they could fulfil their tasks with as few roadblocks as possible. It might not be the most glamorous job – to keep minutes, compile fortnightly reports, draft guidelines and research SMART targets for communication strategies, while others were organising bike rides, cooking classes and starting new community gardens on campus.

But what was truly exciting was seeing the individual team members working together, sharing skills and resources, concerting their efforts to build something larger than the individual aims of their branches. And the feeling that I played a part, no matter how small, in making that happen was absolutely priceless.

After that year, I was encouraged by some of my colleagues to apply for one of the Coordinator positions – which is my current role within the team, alongside two other amazing fellow students. What I aim to do now is take everything that I learned during my time as the Communications Promoter and apply it further as part of what I jokingly call the ‘hugs for everyone’ approach.

That is not to say that I aim to be the creepy person invading everyone’s space, but rather the listening ear, the one who is always there to provide a helping hand, chase some leads or find ways around dead-ends. If you’re wondering where this story has been going all along, there were 3 points that I was trying to make:

  • 1) If you believe in something, use that passion to fuel your hard work: I don’t think I would have thrived in any other internship as much as I have working within GUEST.

 

    Although when I started I did not know nearly enough about Climate Change, Environmentalism and Sustainability, I had a clear interest in these areas, interest that has since grown so much that it now my main focus in all my endeavours, be they professional, academic or personal.

 

  • 2) Be open to new ideas and have the courage to explore possibilities: when I received my aims and objectives for the Communications role, they mostly had to with PR, marketing, social media tasks.
     

However, I saw no reason not to dig deeper and tackle the issues that were closest to my heart, such as team identity and cohesion, which is what brought me the most satisfaction. 3) Identify what you’re good at and don’t hesitate to think outside the box when applying your skills: I’m now supposed to coordinate three branches, each with its own projects.

This entails liaising with University departments, networking, making connections, facilitating dialogue etc. However, my personality is still not bubbly and I am not particularly talkative either.

I have been a listener and a person of few words all my life. But I can still get my job done, because I care about each individual member of the team and with their best interests at heart, I can offer the support they need.

All in all, I do not consider myself in any position to give career advice and I am extremely aware of how lucky I have been to have been offered the opportunity to work for a good cause with wonderful people while studying. But I cannot end this piece any differently from last time: no matter what life throws at you, do not, ever, give up on what you yearn for. And never be put off by failure, as it is the most important part of the learning process.


Carmen Paputa Dutu is a student & Guest Coordinator at The University of Glasgow. If you enjoyed Carmen's post, you can connect with her on Twitter or Linkedin.

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