‘Stand out from the crowd’, a phrase we hear countless times. Now more than ever, the value of gaining meaningful work experience in the field is equally as important as completing your studies.

It was during the second year of my undergraduate psychology degree when I saw 12-week paid internships advertised at the university. At this stage, I had some voluntary experience working as a volunteer counsellor, but I was still unsure where I wanted to go with my psychology degree. I applied for one of the internship positions which was for a health promotion assistant working with the local authority. It was not directly related to psychology as it was more health focused. But the truth was, I didn’t know enough about the different areas to go into, so I put my energy into applying for the internship position. Luckily, I was successful in securing one of the two positions. Although I had no previous experience in health promotion, I focused on highlighting my personal qualities and transferable skills that would make me a great candidate for the role and it worked.

The internship took place over the summer break where I travelled across different communities to develop health interventions and deliver different health initiatives. This experience was new to me as this was the first time, I would be working full time 9-5 providing a real-life experience. I worked collaboratively alongside members of staff and Local Authority Public Health Teams to develop programmes and content to use. This enabled me to harness my communication and interpersonal skills whilst developing my relationship with key people in the community. It was here that I learnt all about the different roles involved in public health, many I had not come across before. This practical opportunity allowed me to shadow different team members and find out about their day-to-day job roles.

The most challenging part was contacting community hubs to arrange awareness-raising events and attending planning meetings where I developed my confidence in leading projects. Although I may not have felt ready for that amount of responsibility, this is where you learn about yourself and what you can do provided the opportunity. The best part was using the knowledge and skills I developed from my psychology degree and applying them in my role. I organised my workload and planned the different health programmes whilst developing new content using figures and health statistics of local areas. I also had the opportunity to showcase my creativity and presentation skills when delivering different health initiatives. This allowed me to make a unique contribution to my role. As the nerves settle, the confidence grows which the employer will pick up on. Not only do opportunities like this one give an insight into what you like but also what you may not like. For example, in the data analysis part, I couldn’t see myself doing that as a job but am still grateful for the insight. Another benefit that came out of the role was the wealth of networking opportunities. As an undergraduate student, this was an invaluable experience that could lead to further opportunities.

I enjoyed my role during that internship and could never have predicted the amount of experience I would gain that essentially enhanced my CV. Furthermore, I was paid for the time and commitment I made whilst in that role which was a bonus. That internship experience was a real eye-opener which later led to a part-time job working in the community as a support worker. Fast forward today, I am halfway through my PhD which is on developing my community health intervention.

By Priya Ahmed.