Caroline Stewart- Becoming the Intern


Graduating university is bitter-sweet. I understand that completely. I was there, three years ago, when I graduated from my History and History of Art degree. You go through this contradictory phase:

YES…feeling the joy of no more essays, hello gin and tonic and no homework, exam? Ha, never again …

And then…

NOOOOO  this is the end of the best three years of your life. It’s not coming back. Never.


Then there’s that thing…denial…if I don’t think about it, it won’t be happening…

Well it did happen. I graduated. I put on a mortar board, got coerced into wearing the salmon pink sash (it’s a strong look) and shook the VC’s hand.

And then…

It was disillusioning to finish, if I’m honest. The first few months were relaxing, I was a bit blasé, well at least I have a barmaid job, at least I’m earning money.

But when this remains the status quo, you start thinking “what?!” You’re stuck at home, feeling like an overgrown baby, feeling like you’re back at square one.

So, I had to do something! I started my job hunt… “Graduate jobs” typed straight into that Google search bar.

My initial hope was to land straight into a job within some sort of museums and archaeology service, you know, a curator of an art gallery, the National Portrait Gallery to be precise. I soon learnt that this was a tricky dream to achieve.

After reaching the finals of an assessment day for the museums service (and not getting through at the final jump)…with a fixed, pained grin on my face I realised that getting out of bar work would require a more proactive approach than Google; I would have to start DOING something. So, this is what I did:

1)      Venting

I worked hard at school, I worked hard at uni, I played by the rules. I grew up thinking that this would lead me to a decent sort of job when I graduated. It didn’t. I got a little peeved about this issue.

I was sick of the lack of opportunities for graduates in Norwich and I was sick of the fact that everyone seemed to ignore the underemployed. There were schemes for unemployed graduates but if you had a job then you were not eligible. I had a job but I sure as hell didn’t invest 9k in education for professional barmaid-ism. So I wrote to my MP. And I started to lobby. I started to get motivated to change things, including myself.

2)      Learning new skills

I enrolled myself on a web design course at the Arts’ Centre because my current set of skills was, evidently, not enough to get me employed. The web design course lasted a month of Wednesday mornings. It was awesome, I met new people from all ages and I gained a great skill in using Dreamweaver. A new skill to talk about in interviews!

3)      Volunteering

I began to volunteer for a Dutch company called The International Best Practice Institute.  I heard about them and got in touch with through my Dad. This is a great thing to do – find opportunities through people who you know! I started “doing” their social media (sadly when I left it didn’t continue)…this gave me another string to my bow and I started to look for social media marketing work because I enjoyed doing professional social media so much.

4)      UEA paid internship

Hurrah! This leads us to my internship with Norwich Business School.

I started reading about the UEA internship scheme online and I signed up straightaway. When I discovered the NBS social media intern job and I read the person spec, I knew that I could do it and that I would love it! BUT (here’s the moral lesson) I wouldn’t have been able to even get an interview for this internship without completing the above steps 1 – 3. My degree really wasn’t enough and my bar work really wasn’t enough but by putting myself out there in my own little way, I did enough to get offered the internship.

It had taken nearly two years since graduating to get myself started on any sort of career path and the internship with NBS was my golden ticket to get out of the grim, graduate barmaid rut that I was in.


The internship

What did I do?

Make everyone tea three times a day, organise the paperclip tray, refill everyone’s staplers…

No, I jest. I was given so many opportunities to learn new skills and to work in my own way. I was made to feel valued and trusted, so I really wanted to do a good job for NBS.

What I learnt/did at NBS:

  • How to use social media to market Higher Education – so I learnt how to use Hootsuite and Facebook Insights and Google Analytics
  • How to use  UEA’s Content Management System – Liferay – to update the Norwich Business School webpages
  • Attended a Search Engine Optimisation course
  • Part project managed NBS’s French summer school IFAG
  • Wrote up a report about my use of social media during my internship

My little legacy:

  • I set up NBS Instagram and persuaded NBS to get the Local Support Office an iPad – so I went into the graduation ceremony last year and sat in the balcony with the iPad taking photos of everyone, putting it on Instagram! It’s a big deal…I promise, it’s a big deal…
  • I started writing the Wikipedia page for NBS (it didn’t get published under me but I started the idea off!) I wasn’t made to write unbiased text, it seems…


So where am I now?

I’m still at UEA.  I work in the Recruitment and Outreach office in the Recruitment Events Team. We organise lots of events for prospective students. Most recently, we have put on two fantastic Open Days, attended by thousands of people all buzzing to experience campus.

What I do (mainly):

I employ Student Guides in their hundreds to showcase UEA to its greatest potential. I also manage campus tours and manage the Student Accommodation Viewing Scheme (so I manage a range of students living on campus to show their flats at our events).

What I still do from NBS in my current job:

I still update the UEA website using Liferay, something I learnt on my internship.

I am still involved in social media – I am currently working on a strategy with UEA’s social media coordinator, Jono, to promote our recruitment events on social media. It’s brilliant because I get to use my knowledge from NBS and learn more about social media from Jono too. I also get to continue being involved in something I am passionate about.

And finally

I set out with an abstract idea of being some well-paid artistic job and that this would fall into my hands straight after graduating. After two years of frustration, I wangled up in Norwich Business School, as the intern; the best turning point in my working life thus far. Since then, I haven’t looked back.

I didn’t set out to be a Recruitment Events Administrative Assistant but I am in a job I love, in a job I can develop from and working for a place that I feel passionate about…all thanks to my internship. My advice? Don’t stick to flogging a dead horse, do embrace change and realise that it’s ok to change direction after your degree.

So, *sob sob* I just can’t ever thank Norwich Business School enough for the opportunity. Should we end this before I get even more emotional?

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