Experience of some sort – volunteering, paid work, committee-membership, structured internships etc etc, combined with your degree studies, has become an essential way to build and demonstrate experience to potential employers/course leaders when you move on from university. You’ll find a variety of previous blog posts on this theme if you do a quick search, and below you can read about one PPLS student’s experience this summer of an internship via Third Sector Internships Scotland (sadly no-longer in existence due to funding cuts) – see end of article to find more organisations offering structured internships.
‘Research internship with Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA)
My internship was with the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance (SIAA), a membership organisation to the different independent advocacy organisations across Scotland. Independent advocacy is a service provided to vulnerable people that enables individuals to get their views heard and take control over their lives. For instance, an advocate may accompany an individual to a meeting with their mental health service. An advocate will help the individual understand what is being said during the meeting, or perhaps remind them of points they wanted to raise. This is only one example, for more detailed information about independent advocacy see www.siaa.org.uk.
I came across the internship during an online search and my attention was immediately caught by the amount of responsibility involved. SIAA were looking for someone to carry out a piece of research from start to finish, which seemed like a great challenge and opportunity to develop my research skills.
The purpose of my research was to investigate the impact of the absence of a right to independent advocacy for adults with addiction issues across Scotland.
- During the first two weeks I familiarised myself with the organisation and their previously published research, and started the literature review for my own research.
- During the third and fourth week I created the interview questions and identified and invited a list of potential participants to take part in the study.
- Following up on these contacts and setting up interviews was particularly challenging as I was under time pressure and could not proceed without the interviews. It was often difficult to get a hold of participants and for some interviews I had to travel across Scotland, which made scheduling particularly complicated. However, perseverance paid off and eventually I was able to complete the interview phase.
- After transcribing the interviews I began the data analysis. I really enjoyed this part of the process as all the work started to come together and themes began to emerge very clearly.
- During the last two weeks of my internship I wrote the report, which was another part that required a lot of planning and organisation. Although I had a structure in mind when I first started the project, it was only after the data was analysed that I could write up the report.
In summary, despite some challenges and obstacles I really enjoyed working on this project. Being fully responsible for the outcome and potentially having a positive impact on the lives of vulnerable individuals made this experience particularly enjoyable. Once the report is published later this year I will have the opportunity to present it at a Cross-Party Group meeting at the Scottish Parliament. This will hopefully encourage members of parliament to take note of the issue and create policies that provide adults suffering from addiction issues with better access to independent advocacy.
What I have learned
The internship was an invaluable experience in gaining a better understanding of how research works in practice. It enabled me to experience the different stages of research in an applied rather than theoretical context, which has expanded my understanding of the research process. I experienced first-hand the importance of a pilot study and the amount of planning that needs to go into the generation of interview questions. Whilst I had previously learnt about these aspects of research, their importance becomes much clearer in practice. Having a specific project to work on and being allowed to put into practice what I learned at university was a great experience. It gave me the chance to enhance my research skills and apply my previously gained knowledge. Furthermore, I believe that this experience will help with my future studies by integrating and reflecting on what I have learnt. Taking ownership of this project and being the author of a published report gave me a sense of pride, which adds to the benefits I gained from this internship. Moreover, I feel like I have made a contribution to Scottish society. Although it was a challenging project and progress was slow at times, keeping at it and staying focused really paid off.
If you have questions about the internship or would like to read my report, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org’
Use our website internship links to get you started on looking for internships. This is not a definitive list, though a good starting point. You can also try
….and further ideas via a handout I produced recently – PPLS work experience handout 2015.