Take a day off from your PhD project!
Dangeni (@DagnyUoG) is a doctoral researcher in the School of Education at the University of Glasgow. Her research interests include international students, student engagement in higher education and language teacher education.
The PhD journey sometimes can be quite daunting as we need to focus on a single project for three to four years. Applying for an internship can be an ideal choice as it allows us to have a day off from our project and accumulate some transferable skills at the same time.
This is a personal reflection on several internship roles I have taken on. Introducing my internship experience, with this post I hope to help you realise that we can spice up our PhD life by applying for an internship and that there are many services from the University we can use to facilitate our journey.
As a second-year PhD researcher, I had three internship roles in the past two years. The first role was as a research intern with a project named ‘Enhancing international PhD students’ experience’, working with scholars to organise UK-wide events on International students’ experience and contributing to research-related tasks for report writing and publication. After finishing this internship, I applied for another one, working as a digital marketing intern, where I supported the delivery of content on the Chinese social media account.
The third role was about developing a resource toolkit for PGRs in the School of Education. As a PGR with a strong interest in research and personal motivation to understand more about the international student’s learning experience and life here in the UK, you might find that all these internships I have done are much related to this topic.
Are you now also curious how you can obtain some additional work experience outside of your postgraduate degree?
The Internship Hub was how I found all these opportunities. Encouraged by my supportive supervisors, I found the posts which enabled me to gain work experience with a focus on skills development.
Step 1: Find an attractive post online
It is very easy to receive updates from the Internship Hub, you can get them via email, the UofG Career Twitter (@UofGCareers) or just check the Hub’s webpage. After searching among all the posts, you may have found one you are most interested in that could develop the professional skills you want to have, for example, communication and interpersonal skills, organisational skills, etc. - you can then check the ‘vacancy details’ in more detail. These are, for example, requirements and criteria, main duties and responsibilities, and administrative information like the occupational area, location, salary range, etc.
Step 2: Fill out your application online
If you’ve selected a particular position, you will be directed to the online application form (which can take some time to complete). Before doing this, there are useful resources for applicants to work through on the application process and some advice from the career managers. The application covers your educational background (modules and qualification), work experience, motivations for applying (super important and you need to be very clear for this part) and how you meet the essential criteria for the post and finally, referee details. If your application has been shortlisted for a further interview, you will receive an email from the Internship Hub officer and can start preparing for the face-to-face session.
Step 3: Prepare for an interview and get started
Similarly, you can seek help from online resources on job interviews or even book a mock interview session with the career office. Preparing, practising and being confident, the internship is now within reach.
What I learned
Through working as an intern for several projects, I was able to reach my goal of developing skills such as 1) communication and interpersonal skills through organising events with a principal investigator (PI) and peer intern, 2) improved self-management, flexibility and responsiveness, and 3) team working by engaging in different tasks. Through working and collaborating with different teams, I learned from the disciplined scholar and colleagues how to improve personal time management and managing multiple tasks. As a research output, I even co-authored a book chapter with a PI and another intern on Setting and Adjusting Expectations of Supervision for the 1st internship, after working through the desk research and reviewing the literature of international PhD students’ experiences. This chapter discusses questions, doubts, and puzzles often encountered by doctoral students and provides reflections and suggestions from both the students' and supervisors' perspectives. Such an experience not only helped me with the improved organisational and communicative skills, but also help me be reflective about my PhD journey.
Moreover, as an international PGR, I always wanted to experience the ‘authentic’ British working environment (to fulfil my learning experience here in the UK). Through working as an intern, I got the opportunity to experience such an environment, and was able to build friendships with locals.
More importantly, these internships provided me with different perspectives and a new lens to look at my research area and myself. I can always think about my project on international students’ engagement in UK higher education with a raised awareness as an international student. Why not earn a bit of money on top of gaining a lot of new skills, making friends and having fun doing so!
Reference: Elliot, D. L. , He, R. and Dangeni, (2019) Setting and adjusting experiences of supervision. In: Dollinger, M. (ed.) Getting the Most Out of Your Doctorate: The Importance of Supervision, Networking and Becoming a Global Academic. Emerald, pp. 19-34.