Today’s episode of What Do You Actually Do!? will be focusing on
doing an internship with the Student Internship Bureau. We interviewed third-year student Julia Cass Hebron about her internship experience at Make It York.
To find out more about the Student Internship Bureau, click here.
For more information on working in Market Research:
- Summer Internship: It’s not easy being green, with Oscar Bentley
- Bringing social media into The Economist, with Adam Smith
Kate: You’re listening to the What Do You Actually Do!? podcast. Each week, we want to bring you an inspiring interview, a useful tip or encouraging message to help you find your place in the professional world. Hello and welcome to this episode of what do you actually do? My name’s Kate Morris and I’ll be your host today. In today’s episode we’ll be talking about doing an internship with the Student Internship Bureau. Today we’re joined by Julia Hebron. She did a market research internship with make it York. So Julia, what did you actually do?
Julia: In my internship, I was working with a branch of Make it York called Science City York, and they help creative and digital businesses in the Yorkshire region. So what I was doing was basically researching all the creative and digital businesses that were already in York and making a report based on what I found. So we’re going to use this to create a strategy to help increase the number of businesses and jobs in that sector available in York. I was also doing some marketing work with social media and writing articles for their website. So a bit of everything.
So with your research, was that like desk based research or did you have to go out into the community and find out about the businesses? How did, how did that work?
It was mainly based in their office in the city centre, uh, there were opportunities to go out and actually meet some of the people working in the industry. And, uh, particularly when I was researching all the networking events happening in the city, I would kind of go, oh, it would be really helpful as if I could attend these. I would go along to those and talk to people, which was really nice for variety, but the majority of it was, uh, through research in the office. Yeah.
So what was the actual process of getting the internship then? How did that come about?
I saw it listed on the student internship bureau. I think it appeared around March. Um, and I was looking for something to do over the summer that would help with my career. So I applied through the careers gateway. Um, and you just have to fill in a couple of questions about what makes you interested in the role and any skills or experience you have. And then after that I had to go for an interview with the host of Science City York or the host of the internship at the company. Um, and I was interviewed by two people that, uh, and after that they made me an offer so it was quite straight forward.
So when you looked at, you said you saw it’d be helpful for your career. We, we thinking about a career in market research was at a particular area of interest for you?
I was looking at anything to do with uh, written media writing communications because I’m really interested going into media in the future, particularly journalism actually what I want to do, it’s a bit different. It’s environmental journalism, anything to do with communications as good experience with that because um, it helps develop the same kind of skills and also gets you a better idea of the working world. So I was looking for anything in that area also that was available in York so that I could stay here over the summer. Maybe use my tenancy.
Yeah. That sounds really interesting though, that you didn’t just limit yourself to stuff labelled as journalism internship. You’d identified what kind of skills you need to get into the future career that you’re interested in and looked for any opportunity that kind of gave you the chance to test out those skills.
You know, I think media work experience is really hard to come by. Um, and specific journalism internships tend to be unpaid often based in London where it can be really expensive to get to let alone, uh, go to a two week internship. And also if you’re not completely sure what you want to do, it’s less important to pick the exact role that you think you want. Often you can find a way to make most roles relevant or you can also tailor the role over time to let the employer know what kinds of things you’re interested in. And in my case, and I think in a lot of cases the employers want to hear what your interests are and they want to offer you experience that helps you build the skills that you particularly value. So for example, my employer, even though my main role was doing market research because I asked about it, I was also able to do the social media and writing articles for them, which was useful for me in terms of media experience.
Well, I guess it gave you the sort of thorough background knowledge of what it was that Make it York are trying to do and their strategy, et Cetera, but then being able to communicate that in an interesting engaging way through social media to other people. It was kind of the best of both worlds.
Yeah, exactly. You get an experience of writing and different formats. Like I’d never written a professional market research reports and they sort of left that up to me. I had quite a lot of sole responsibility over that task. So I had to learn how to write a report for a company and then at the same time I started, for example, their Instagram account and I was using a different tone on there. So going back and forth between different styles and different writing formats was, really good experience
Again, particularly for your future career plans. So it sounds like definitely the writing was a big core skill. You have the chance to, to hone and develop research obviously. Any other skills that you really felt yeah, I really gained that from that experience.
Yeah. Um, particularly with excel and using spreadsheets because this is something that when you apply you’re always like, oh yeah, I know how to use excel. And then you actually get given a spreadsheet and they go, oh, I’ll just leave this to you then for to analyse the data and you’re like, oh, right, okay. Hold on. Perhaps I actually don’t know. So I developed a lot of skills in, in software that I hadn’t done before cause I had to map, the final results onto an interactive map online. And that was again, mainly left it to me. I also got just a general insight into working in a professional environment and I’m learning to structure your day around it a nine to five that even if you don’t intend to work nine to five in the future, it’s really good idea to get that experience and get a sense of how the majority of the working population manage their life. Because the first couple of weeks I came back at five and I was exhausted. I couldn’t do anything for the rest of the day, but obviously people do, they go out and they may do things in the evening. So after a couple of weeks I found that it wasn’t exhausting to work nine to five, I was used to the early starts. Um, and I was used to focusing for a set number of hours in a day rather than, you know, the very scattered work patterns of students.
Yeah, it’s a massive contrast, isn’t it? A big jump. But I guess, you know, you mentioned there that you sort of don’t really intend to work nine to five in the future, but I’m guessing it’s quite useful to make an informed choice about that too. Having tried out what it’s like being in that really structured environment to just confirm that instinct, but it’s not really your thing.
Yeah, definitely. I think, um, really, um, value the fact that I have the experience of working nine to five, um, because I then I feel like I do have a clearer idea of whether it’s the right working style for me. Um, because if you’ve never tried it and then you say, oh, I don’t think I want to work a nine to five, it does sound a bit like you’re just saying that because it doesn’t sound like fun. Um, yeah.
Loads of students who say that they’re like, oh, I’m not really sure I want to do nine to five, don’t really want to work in an office. And I’m like, well, have you ever tried it? And they’re like, well, no, I’m, so I also realised even though it wasn’t for me, the nine to five style, I could understand why a lot of people like it and why it works because it is structured, it does let you plan around the working day quite easily. You can leave at five and not have to think about work until the next day, which is really good for kind of switching, switching off your brain and that side of your life. And um, it’s also easier to plan things like the holidays around it and seeing how the rest of the staff did that and book their weeks off and things like that. I can see the appeal nine to five.
What would you say was the sort of biggest challenge that you encountered during the experience?
The biggest challenge was that the work I was doing well changed over the course of the internship. So the initial task I was given was just to see which creates a digital businesses from a list were still in the city. And then when I was done with that to start adding new ones that I found, but other starts the strategy and the plan for creating the strategy was still in the rough stages of planning. So I would get a certain amount of the way through my research and then they would change the plan and it will turn out I needed to get an additional piece of information so then I’d have to go back over the last 500 businesses I’ve listed and add this particular piece of information. And then later it turned out that the actually wasn’t needed anymore. And different people have different priorities from the information they wanted. So they were asking me to prioritise different things in my research. And this was, I mean, pretty inevitable when they’re still figuring out what they actually wanted to get. But it made it quite difficult, um, to go off and do the work for sort of a week at a time, not knowing if at the end of the week they would go, oh, and did you also registered that post code and you’d go, what? Sorry. What? So just trying to work, uh, with that, with that flexibility of knowing that what exactly they were looking for could change at any moment.
How did you cope with that then? Because that sounds incredibly frustrating and probably quite time consuming, if you’re having to sort of re-do work or the parameters kept moving. How did you sort of cope with that constant change?
Mainly by communication, by telling people exactly what, you know. I had been asked by other people to avoid confusion or miscommunication and also at a certain point just making a decision myself about how much I could feasibly do. Cause they would always be, you know, someone that would have appreciated if I also added this one piece of information about each of the businesses. But the, going back over the sort of 2000 I listed by the end to add that one piece of information was not feasible. So a certain point I just have to go, well this is the information that seems most important. This is what I’m collecting. This is the data I have. Because even though that sounds quite daunting in a way to say that to your employer, especially when you’re just the intern to say, oh, I don’t really think I can go back and do that. They don’t get annoyed or anything. They do understand they are reasonable human beings and often they don’t realise that other people might have asked me to do something different. So they really appreciate me just communicating that and saying what I’d been asked to do by various people in the department.
That sounds amazing then. So you really sort of developed that confidence in your own judgment of what was kind of feasible and what was necessary and you was the sort of chief researcher, if you like, of that piece of work to be able to say, well this is how it’s going to, you know, I’ve taken on board what you’ve been asking me to do, but this is the piece of work I have created. And then people respected that and kind of…
I didn’t realise that the start, how much my work would actually impact to their final strategy. Um, and it wasn’t until I started doing the research and then they were printing out and taking it to their meetings that it really dawned on me that, okay, um, the work here is actually informing that creative strategy for the city. So you kind of have to develop a confidence in what you’re doing and to be pretty certain that I was happy with the work I was doing.
You must feel proud then the work that you’ve done potentially has a really lasting impact on the city of York and the businesses that are within it.
Yeah, it’s really satisfying to see that it’s actually made a difference in that people are interested in hearing about the findings. And knowing that my work was actually useful to the organization and not just, you know, something to keep the intern occupied but actually have a valuable contribution that’s really beneficial I think.
And how would you say this experience has impacted on your own career plan?
I’d say I have a clearer idea of the kind of work that I like to do in the future as a result. For example, I was interested in, uh, doing freelance work before the internship and after the internship, I mentioned this to my boss and she was quite happy to start paying me on a freelance basis to continue doing some of the social media marketing and writing. And I gained a lot of confidence realizing that actually it was feasible for me to become a freelancer as a student, whereas I previously kind of believe the idea that it was impossibly hard to me, money as a freelancer that you’ll never get off the ground kind of thing. Um, so it gave me confidence to pursue that and that is going well and picked up additional clients since then. Also it made me realise that although I appreciate the ninth five experience, it’s not, um, something that I particularly want in a future career. I learned a lot about kind of what I like in a job. I preferred it when it was a varied, when I had a lot of different tasks on the go and when I was out of the office. So that’s things that I then look for. And after university life.
That’s fantastic then. So really your career’s already started. You’ve already got clients that you’re doing freelance, paid work for and starting to build up your reputation and credibility.
Yeah, it’s a bit mental to me. I didn’t think that, um, it would go so well. I suppose I shouldn’t say that, but…
No, I think that’s important to recognise. It can be quite daunting when you, and you know, you don’t know how good it’s going to be and how seriously employer’s going to take care. And as you say, you don’t know what you’re going to gain from it.
Yeah, definitely. Cause I think often I do this and I think perhaps a lot of people do this as, um, they have something that they want to do, like a career plan or something they’d like to just begin in whatever way, uh, but then waiting for kind of the moment that they feel ready for it. I didn’t feel like I really knew how to do freelancing. I just kind of put it on my LinkedIn. I have a freelancer before I even got any paid work and I told my boss, so yeah, I’d like to freelancing. I’ll send you my rates and other moment I had no idea what my rates were. Um, so I went home and I started googling like freelance rates and it all worked out fine. So I think, uh, I realised, Oh, I have to repeatedly be reminded of this, that there is no moment that you’ll feel ready to kind of start your career. And especially now in final year where loads of people are really worried about not being ready for the working world. I don’t think anyone ever feels ready. I think you just kind of got to start and like you will make mistakes but everyone does.
It’s stepping stones isn’t it? It isn’t necessarily saying, right, this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. It’s a starting point that you then build on. Any other bits of advice for students who are thinking about doing some work experience?
I would say to start looking now and no matter what point you are in your degree and don’t worry if you can’t find something that is exactly what you want to pursue in the future, especially if, um, your chosen career or something quite hard to get into like media or you’re not sure what you want to do because chances are there’s loads and loads of opportunities and things to try out, especially while you’re at university. But you will worry about not having the time to do work experience or it not exactly being a role that you want to do in the future, but it’s all valuable and it’s better to do something than to do nothing because even if all you gained from it as thinking, oh, I never want to do that again, at least you know, and you don’t apply, you tend to end up sitting around thinking, oh, that job would have been perfect. Even if it wasn’t the act that you didn’t apply tends to meet you worry that you missed out on the ideal opportunity. So it’s much better just to throw yourself instantly, see how it goes and then if you don’t like it, well at least you know and you have that experience and something to refer to, to kind of validate your future decisions.
Thank you. Thanks so much for joining us today, I think that has been really, really interesting. I’m so glad to hear that the internship went well and then the freelancing is going amazingly. I’m going to add some relevant links to the episode description for anyone interested in hearing about more about the student internship bureau or working in market research in particular. And we’ll also have a link to the full transcript of today’s show. But thanks again Julia.