Sweaty palms, cotton dry mouth, raised heartbeat.
“Hello, I am Alea. I am here for an interview”
“Yes, of course, have a seat” the lady smiles and points at the huge purple sofa, the kind that looks like it could swallow you if it tried. A gulp of water and a quick look around. “If you would like to come through with me”. I am guided into a room with friendly faces beaming at me, the door falls shut behind me. This was the beginning of my year as the EVOC 150 Communications Intern.
Grown-ups had always made it sound as if a degree pushes open every door for you. Jobs grow on trees, you just have to reach out and pick one. In the end, I had two degrees but still no job. Was there a secret code someone had forgotten to tell me about? Fresh out of uni and released into the wild with no guidance, no experience and no idea where to start I fired out applications left, right and centre.
The more rejections I received the deeper I dived into the application frenzy to fend off self-doubt and anxiety creeping in. “We regret to inform you…”, “The right candidate had more experience in…” I spent every waking minute writing hundreds of applications. I was turned down for every opportunity and never even got to interview stage which really rattled my confidence in my skills and myself.
With the number of rejection letters I received, I could have easily redecorated my room… TWICE.
AAI changed everything for me.
Winds of change
I applied for AAI’s mentorship programme to be matched with an industry professional who would support their mentee, guide them in their career search and prep them. My mentor could not have been more understanding and supportive. Within a month with my mentor, invitations to interviews came flying in and in the end, I landed a Communications internship with the Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council (EVOC), which was an internship advertised through AAI.
In all my previous internships I felt like a bit of a token. I was a spare wheel making sure there were coffee and biscuits for everyone while I watched the grandmasters at their work hoping to peck up their wisdom crumbs. The other end of my internship-spectrum were glorified PA posts vastly stretching the intern card demanding unpaid overtime doing the work that was beneath properly paid staff.
Lucy Ridley (Programme Manager), Yasmin Duncan (Communications Officer), Alea Ibrahim (Communications Intern)
EVOC was different. From day one I felt valued and trusted. I was given responsibilities and freehand. I learned a lot in this year. Not only in the form of hard skills but also about myself, my abilities, what I can achieve and actually want to achieve. Working in a tight-knit team to stem events such as the pamper day for carers on Carers Rights Day or a huge birthday party for Flora Stevenson at Flora Stevenson Primary School, representing EVOC 150 and networking at a range of conferences and events and having the chance to take on my own little projects really boosted my skill set and confidence in my abilities over the year.
So what is next for the intern?
I am now one step up in my career journey and landed my current post as Digital Engagement Co-ordinator at Youth Scotland. Every time I meet graduates who face the same struggles as me (and there are so many), I refer them to AAI as I could not have asked for more. I and so many other graduates are really let down by the career services at the universities and released into the career world with no guidance or support on how to actually proceed once graduated.
AAI is such a valuable organisation and resource to us so thank you so much for that and congratulations on your milestone. I will keep referring you to all the struggling graduates I meet.
My advice for other struggling graduates is: Do not doubt yourself. Use the resources on offer for you and if that does not seem to work, change course.
My advice for other employers: Value your interns and put some trust in us. You might be surprised how much we can achieve if our tasks exceed note-taking. We are not just here to stock-pile names for our CVs.
Some fresh wind and a new pair of eyes might be exactly what you need.
The EVOC 150 project is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with thanks to players of the National Lottery.