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Why interning at a start-up is an incredible learning experience

Rachael Richardson-Bullock9 June 2021

Read time: 3 minutes

Written by Elena Raimondi, UCL Alumni.

Introduction 

I graduated from UCL with an MPhil in Philosophy in March 2021. With a background in Philosophy, by the time I graduated I was eager to gain as much hands-on work experience as possible.  

I craved learning new skills and practical knowledge in a business environment and I figured that a start-up would be a great place to start. I joined TidyChoice as a Human Resources intern and it has proven to be an incredible learning experience. In this blog postI want to share my experience so that it may encourage more graduates to join start-ups. 

London start-ups 

I am sure that you have heard about the dynamic London start-up ecosystem, a universe of fast-growing companies born of a single brilliant idea and fueled by the cutting-edge work of small but close-knit teams. It is easy to get hooked on these companies’ vibrant culture and success stories, and so I did.  

My learning experience 

Within my first couple of weeks, I have become an integral part of the team. My colleagues rely on me for recruiting and onboarding new professionals, and my suggestions to improve our HR processes have already been implemented. It was always going to be a good learning opportunity, but I did not expect the learning curve to be this steep. I have learnt so much so fast, and there is still so much more to experience. 

Reasons to intern at a start-up 

Here are some of the reasons why interning at a start-up has been one of the most intense learning experiences of my life and why I would recommend it to any recent graduate. 

1.) Work directly with the founders and managers 

You learn directly from those who envisioned the company, created it, and have run it since its inception. The knowledge and know-how that is passed on to you comes from the people who have steered the business through good times and bad times and learning from that experience is invaluable. 

I collaborate closely with the Operations Manager at TidyChoice. I am supervised by the company’s co-founder and CEO and I meet weekly with the rest of the team, including a brilliant CTO, who co-founded and literally built our website. All of them know the business inside out and are the ideal people to learn from. 

2.) Gain insights into every aspect of the business 

Not only do you oversee the whole business function you are working in, but you also get to see how the whole start-up works organically. You will be able to peek into all aspects of the business and have the chance to easily collaborate with any of your colleagues when your areas overlap. This allows you to learn beyond your own function and job description. 

For instance, as a HR intern, I know everything that is going on in our recruiting and lead each of our candidates throughout the entire recruitment process, from the moment they first get in touch to their activation on our platform. In addition, I’ve also regularly learnt a lot about Operations, Marketing and Product Development because we regularly have team meetings where everyone explains how the business is going on their end.

3.) Learn to think critically 

Critical thinking is a great skill and at a start-up you are constantly encouraged to think about how we do things and what can be improved. That encouragement allows you to connect more deeply with your job, understand it better and learn to figure out problems on your own. 

I can discuss my suggestions to streamline our recruitment process with colleagues. I am encouraged  to suggest and implement improvements as part of my role. In this close-knit team where very little is set in stone, every new proposal is either quickly rejected or adopted, leaving room for new ideas. 

4.) Handle a lot of responsibility 

When the team is small, colleagues and customers will inevitably rely on you. Colleagues are there to support you, but it is up to you to own your role and help the business succeed. 

At TidyChoice I am responsible for recruiting and onboarding new professionals, so my performance immediately reflects on the success of the business. I have a material impact on the business and my colleagues count on me. 

5.) Learn hands on 

Autonomy, initiative and speed are truly valued in a rapid-growing company, so you will start doing your job on Day 1 and learn it as you go. Your colleagues will shadow you at first, but there is no bench time before diving into the job. It is a challenging environment and you can progress quickly. There is no limit to the level of responsibility you can take on. 

At TidyChoice, I was shadowing interviews as soon as I started the internship. I was conducting phone interviews on my second day (while being shadowed) and I learnt how to navigate our systems and carry out essential tasks in the first week. While I have a handbook that I can refer to, I mostly rely on my colleagues’ feedback to learn and improve at my job. 

6.) Variety will keep you engaged 

In this shapeshifting business, you learn more than one way to do your job. Processes are constantly evolving and improving, so by the time you have mastered a certain task, you need to be ready to master the next one. 

In my role, every day is different and I have a high level of autonomy over how I manage the work. Whilst my performance is assessed against deliverables, it is entirely up to me how I meet targets. 

7.) The potential for growth is exciting 

Being part of a fast-growing company means that you have the opportunity to develop new skills as your role evolves. If you are flexible, you have the opportunity to expand your knowledge beyond your current function. 

My current focus at TidyChoice is mostly on recruiting and onboarding, but the role is expanding to take on more HR functions. I also contribute to other business functions, such as marketing where I am asked to provide my input and opinion on new advertising campaigns.   

Conclusion 

For these reasons and more, interning in a start-up is an incredible learning experience and an exciting career move that I would encourage all graduates to consider. If you wish to acquire valuable skills and practical business knowledge when you are fresh out of university, you should definitely give it a go.

Everything you need to know about the Employers on Equality series

Rachael Richardson-Bullock20 May 2021

Read time: 2 minutes

Written by George Potts, Events Manager at UCL Careers.

One male and two female students huddled at a desk looking down and reading something on the desk.

UCL Careers’ Events Manager, George Potts, recently chatted to us about our new employer series; Employers on Equality. 

Q1) Hi George, can you give me a few more details about the upcoming UCL Careers: Employers on Equality series? 

This is a new series of employer-led panel discussions that has been designed to give UCL students the opportunity to hear from employers and ask them questions on how they are improving equality, diversity and inclusion in their recruitment practices and in the workplace.  

Each day, across four days, we will be focusing on a specific area where positive action is being taken: 

  • 1 June,  1pm – 2pm       Race Equality 
  • 2 June,  12 pm– 1pm     Gender & Orientation Equality 
  • 3 June,  1pm – 2pm       Physical & Mental Health Diversity 
  • 4 June,  1pm – 2pm       Social Mobility  

We will be inviting employers from a range of industries to talk about the methods and strategies currently being used by their organisation to improve the diversity of their workforce and the experience of their staff. We have also invited the employers to bring along someone from within their organisation who can tell us more, from the perspective of their own lived experience. We hope the range of insights of our panellists will make for a really engaging discussion and Q&A for any UCL students and recent graduates interested to hear from employers on the subject of equality. 

Q2) I can hear that you are really passionate about all of the upcoming events. Why did you want to create the Employers on Equality series in particular? 

Although we often touch upon diversity and inclusion as a Q&A topic at employer events, across all our programmes, we felt it was important to give this subject matter its own spotlight.  

Employers have a lot to share with us on the work they’re doing in these areas – which is really inspiring, and we wanted to create a space where our students feel that they can ask their questions. 

Q3) Which themes or topics do you anticipate will be covered during the series of events? 

We will certainly be looking to cover: 

  • Equal opportunity in recruitment 
  • Pathways to progression / removing barriers 
  • Embracing diversity (being valued) in organisational culture 
  • Help and support / measures and what is meant by ‘reasonable adjustments 
  • Networks and peer support 
  • Tackling micro-aggressions and stamping out prejudice 

Q4) What can students expect to gain from attending any (or even all) of the series events? 

We hope that attendees will gain insight and awareness of why employers value diversity and the measures they take to nurture this, and that they leave the sessions with a deeper understanding of how to seek support in a professional / recruitment setting and the confidence to speak about diversity to employers. 

These sessions are also a great opportunity to network with employers who actively recruit UCL graduates and to engage with professionals from a range of industries with strong EDI values. 

Q5Wow, I can’t wait to get involved myself. How exactly can students ask questions and join in the discussion? 

For those attending who feel they’d rather not ask their questions during the session, we’ve set up a Google form for each event, where questions can be logged anonymouslyPlease see event listings for the links to these. We will also be including an opportunity for networking, after the Q&A, where attendees can choose to speak to employers in smaller groups about any specific questions they have.  

In the interests of creating a safe space for open conversation, we will not be recording these events. 

Q6) This sounds like a really fantastic opportunity to gain insight, awareness and confidence across the entire equalities sphere. When do bookings open? 

Bookings are open now and you can book your place via our website. 

Registration is essential to attend.  

We look forward to welcoming all students and recent graduates to attend, regardless of background – equality is a conversation for everyone.   

Why previous years’ participants think you should apply for Focus on Management 2018!

UCL Careers9 April 2018

We contacted students who have previously participated in Focus on Management to see how they’ve been getting on since the course. We saw that they were thrilled on the last day of the course … but how has completing Focus on Management impacted them and their career? Here’s a selection of the responses we received:

 

Marianne Thompson – BA French and Spanish (Joint Honours)

“I was recently able to draw upon the invaluable experience that I gained from this course at an assessment centre for an international investment bank. I believe that it was my exposure to business case studies during Focus on Management that best prepared me for this process, and I was successful in gaining a place on the competitive summer internship.

I would highly recommend the Focus on Management course to anyone who is thinking about applying for internships or graduate schemes, as it is the perfect introduction to the kind of work you will be expected to complete at assessment centres, as well as providing you with the skills and knowledge to impress employers in the future.

The diversity of the business case studies presented, along with the intensive nature of the course, means that you are always kept on your toes and you are constantly being challenged in new ways.”

 

Andrew Dunn – MA in History

“Focus on Management was marketed as an opportunity to network with some of the brightest sparks of UCL’s student body – and they were! It was a practice run at many of the exercises that one might find at an assessment centre. The opportunity to work with other students to solve these exercises helped me develop a greater awareness of my own skills as a leader and team-worker.

Shortly after taking part in Focus on Management, I put the skills learnt to the test during an assessment day. I’m pleased to report that I must have picked something useful up, as I was subsequently offered a position! I strongly recommend any student at UCL to have a go at Focus on Management … you won’t be disappointed!”

 

Pancali Hume – MSc in International Public Policy

“I found out about Focus on Management after seeing an email about it from UCL Careers and there was a part of me that almost didn’t apply – but I am so happy that I did!

…the course prepared me for my upcoming assessment centre at a professional services company far better than my individual research or any practice interviews I did. It challenged my thinking and allowed me to practice vital presentation skills and teamwork exercises in a realistic context.

I would recommend Focus on Management to all UCL students as I sincerely believe this is the prime time to be thinking about leadership and creating concrete goals to champion and lead change in our generation.”

 

Rohan Krajeski – MRes in Biomedicine 

“Since completing the Focus on Management 2017 course at UCL, I took up a position as a Research Assistant in Neuroscience at the University of Oxford.

The skills I developed on the 2017 course is useful for my current work. The ability to effectively work with others has led to a number of collaborations with other research groups within the institution, and we are now looking further afield with abroad collaborations, particularly in the US.

Skills developed in effective planning and commutation has helped me complete high volumes of work quickly and reliably – only 6 months into my work I am shortly ready to submit two papers for academic publication, as well as writing a number of neuroscience articles for local and national neuroscience associated magazines.

Most vitally, skills developed in public speaking (and in listening/reflection) has greatly affected my current work. I am due to present my research from Oxford at the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) Forum in Berlin, Germany. Plus additional talks are scheduled for the UK, such as at UCL in May 2018.

I think it is also important to note, that when I was applying for my work at Oxford, I had only recently completed the Focus on Management 2017 course. I was able to integrate the skills mentioned above into my interview and presentation prep. for my job advertised – I think it made all the difference.” 


Inspired by the words of previous years’ participants? – Apply now

Go to http://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/focus for more details and application instructions.

 

Focus on Management 2018 is sponsored by Amazon

 

 

Environment and Sustainability Week coming soon

Weronika Z Benning1 February 2016

If you’re passionate about the environment, UCL Careers’ Environment and Sustainability Week from 8th Feb is a must.

Whether you’re looking for a volunteering position while you study, want to find out more about how to work in conservation and biodiversity, or are keen to develop your networking skills to break into this competitive sector, there’s an event for you. As well as the chance to meet a really diverse range of professionals, from Green Alliance to the National Geographic Wild, we’re also very fortunate to have Forum for the Future coming in to deliver a practical workshop on System Innovation, so you can get stuck in to solving some of the greatest sustainability challenges.

For those of you who know you want a career that benefits the planet but aren’t yet quite sure what that might look like, our Green Careers Discovery Evening on Tuesday 9th February offers a lively and dynamic introduction to a whole range of different areas of work via group speed-networking. With organisations such as the Department for Energy and Climate Change, Mott Macdonald and Ofgem represented, this is a great chance to get to know people working in exciting environmental roles and hear their tips for how you can launch your career in the sector. We’re even offering a workshop on networking skills the day before to help you make the most of this valuable opportunity. And once you’re ready to apply, you’ll want to make sure your CV is up to scratch, so we’re putting on a workshop to help you see your CV through the eyes of the environmental sector employer.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up and find your path to a fulfilling career in sustainability. Places are strictly limited so early booking is recommended.

Networking with Organisations and Professionals

Weronika Z Benning29 January 2016

ALMOSTThe UCL Careers Charities & NGO’s themed week is approaching and we have a host of charities and non-for-profit organisations taking over the UCL Careers library on Thursday, 4th February to answer all of your questions at our networking event. Networking can be an incredibly powerful tool in your job search so it’s important that you do it right. Below are some useful tips to consider before attending the event.

 

  1. Do your research.

There will be a full list of all the organisations that will be attending the Charities & NGO’s Networking Event on the events page of the UCL Careers website, so make sure you do your research about the organisations that are attending. Find out who they are, what they do, any of their recent projects, etc. Not only will this help you build the basis of your conversation, you can impress them with your knowledge of their organisation, and remember: first impressions count.

  1. Have a goal/purpose

It’s always a good idea to set some goals before the event to help you stay focused. Think about what you want to find out at the event and the reason you want to attend e.g. finding out more about a particular role, advice on getting into a particular sector. When doing so make sure this information isn’t available on their website, meaning you will come away with some really valuable information!

  1. Prepare some questions

The key to be being interesting is to be interested. So ensure that you prepare some good questions ahead of the event. This way you can structure your conversation giving it purpose and flow and avoiding any awkward silences. In the charity and non-for-profit sector your passion is incredibly important so may sure you ask some thoughtful questions that reflect your interest. The networking event will be a rare opportunity to ask questions that you normally wouldn’t get the opportunity to ask so preparation is key.

  1. Don’t ask for a job!

Networking is about gathering information – not asking for jobs. This is a classic mistake which people tend to make and does not go down well with employers. Instead you should use this opportunity to discuss ideas and present your skills as people are much more likely to respond to your enthusiasm and understanding. Talk to the professionals about how to find vacancies and how to keep updated with their recruitment opportunities. This may help you to discover unadvertised vacancies as well as getting some tips along the way whilst maintaining professionalism.

The UCL Careers Charities & NGO Networking event will take place from 5.30 – 7.00pm on Thursday 4th February. For details of how to sign up please visit the following link: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/events/getinto/charitiesandngos

 

Charities and NGOs Week is around the corner: 1st-4th February 2016

Weronika Z Benning26 January 2016

Though important, there is so much more to working in the charities and NGOs sector than shaking a tin, volunteering or delivering aid to those in need on the frontline.  Many charities and NGOs are run as professional businesses that carry out functions such as research and lobbying, as well as raising and redistributing funds.  In the pursuit of addressing human or environmental needs, the sector can be intensely competitive in terms of attracting media attention, funding and other resources.  Most non-profit organisations rely on paid staff as well as volunteers and the sector attracts intelligent people with a passion for their work.

UCL Careers Charities & NGOs Week aims to dispel some of the myths that surround working within this sector.  Through a series of four events, the themed week will provide students with an opportunity to gain a deeper insight into the the diverse range of roles available to them, from campaigning and policy work to international development and disaster relief.  The interactive session on how to prepare persuasive applications will help students to demonstrate their motivation and enthusiasm and ultimately increase their chances of job success.  The final event in the series will provide an excellent opportunity to network, be inspired and pick up some top tips from the experts, who are currently working in the sector.

For further details about UCL Careers Charities & NGOs Week including how to book:
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/events/getinto/charitiesandngos

Book now: Sprint Development Programme for female students sponsored by RBS and Microsoft

UCL Careers12 January 2016

Sprint is back at UCL this February, after yet another successful year. 

WHAT IS SPRINT?

Sprint is a well-established development programme for undergraduate and graduate women at the early stages of their professional development, from all backgrounds and ages. It provides a tool kit to help female undergrads be empowered to achieve their potential. The programme enables participants to take hold of their personal ambitions and develop a network of mentors and peers. Whilst the programme is open to all, those at the beginning of their career or with little work experience will benefit the most.

Originally pioneered at University of Cambridge, with more recent programmes run at the University of Oxford, UCL and City University have co-hosted a number of successful programmes.  The results have been amazing – over 90% say the programme has changed their lives and they feel more positive and better in control of their career decisions as a result.

This winter the programme will be hosted at UCL and across four action packed days, the programme will cover a range of key development topics, with the aim help you to:

  • use your personal power and influence
  • identify your values, attitudes and direction
  • manage your time effectively
  • learn how to use assertiveness positively
  • build your image, networking skills and confidence
  • engage with inspiring role models and industry professionals
  • gain access to a network of mentors (provided by sponsoring companies) to help you achieve your goals

The programme is co-sponsored by The Royal Bank of Scotland and Microsoft.

WHEN IS IT?

16th, 17th, 18th February and 22nd March 2016 at UCL.

Here’s what two attendees from last year had to say about the programme:

“Such a positive experience, which was helpful both personally and professionally.”

“I didn’t want to go to Sprint – my friend talked me into signing up with her! I’m so glad I listened to her.  Sprint was a wonderful experience.  I found a sense of community with the women in our group and a sense of relief that I wasn’t alone in the challenges I faced.  Sprint reminded me of the tools I already had and gave me new ones as well.  I can’t wait for what comes next!”

HOW TO APPLY?

Applicants will need to submit a CV and a 300 word letter detailing why they wish to participate in the course.

Applicants will be shortlisted according to clear evidence that they have thought about their future career, why they wish to participate in the course, and how it will meet their development needs.

Whilst the programme is open to all, those at the beginning of their career or with little work experience will benefit the most.

Please email your application to Kathryn Goodfellow (k.goodfellow@ucl.ac.uk) and Rhiannon Williams (rhiannon.e.williams@ucl.ac.uk).

The deadline for applications is 9am on 25th January 2016 and successful candidates will be informed within a week of the closing date.

For more information please visit www.ucl.ac.uk/careers/events/sprint

Getting into Publishing – Event Round-up and Top Tips

UCL Careers9 December 2015

Our Getting into Publishing panel discussion on Tuesday 1st December 2015 provided attendees with fantastic insight into this sector including industry trends and hot topics, typical roles and responsibilities and how to stand out as an applicant. Catch up on key points from this discussion below and read about the panellists in attendance here.

> Panellists extolled the  benefits of gaining work experience in smaller and/or independent publishers where you can get varied hands on experience and insight. There are very limited places on graduate schemes with major trade publishers (for example, only 4 places at HarperCollins) so being open to working in different roles in a wider range of publishing companies is encouraged at the start of your publishing career. Building up wide ranging work experience in different types of publishing companies is a positive. Don’t just go for trade publishing (it is considered by many the most glamourous) but consider other types, such as scientific manuals and journals, academic press or working at literary agents.
> Useful resources recommended for finding out about companies and hot topics in publishing are the Writers and Authors Yearbook, Bookseller (especially the jobs board) and The Society of Young Publishers. A useful event is the Futurebook annual conference.

> Don’t focus too much at this stage on getting a particular role in a particular company – it’s about trying to get a starting role. It’s a lot easier to change jobs within the industry once you’re in and move between imprints within a parent company. Try to be well-rounded and open to different roles at the start. At the very least, you’ll be able to appreciate what each job role does even if you aren’t good at it when you try it yourself – what makes someone good at one area (i.e. production) makes them terrible at another (sales)! agents.

> Be aware that you will start from the bottom, despite having a degree. Be humble and be prepared for the coffee making and photocopying, but also be enthusiastic and curious about what is going on more widely in the company. During any work experience strive to make the most of it and have a good attitude, as hiring often happens by referral and a remembrance of an awesome intern when vacancies come up in the company (“We have a editorial assistant job coming up – why don’t we contact X to see if they are still available, they were great!”)

> Build your awareness of which books and publications are linked to which publishers, their body of work, key successes. An industry trend is that many major publishing houses have acquired lots of smaller companies (called imprints).

> Key skills required for publishing roles are relationship management, project management and attention to detail. Relationship management examples were given of sending each bookstore manager a personalised book choice with an individual note, maintaining relationships with authors and with key individuals in different internal departments. A suggestion for building relationship skills is to listen to conversations during any work experience and see how publishing professionals deal with situations / respond to clients. Project management is also an important skill as essentially you will be looking after several projects simultaneously, for example various book launches.

> Nobody mentioned reading when discussing their jobs. Panellists stressed that you have to love reading to do the job but you won’t just be sat reading all day, there are lots of other parts of the role involved which make the reading happen for other people.

> Panel quote: “the written word is our life blood” – applications with any spelling or grammar mistakes will not be considered!

> Social media: look at your own presence and make it appealing (and free of bad English!) but also follow people in the industry and at the companies you’re applying for – learn about them, what they like, what they’re interested in, what they’re reading

> Some key industry changes and hot topics include
– the move to Open Access publications– academic publishers have been ahead of trade with this (and are with more new trends)
– major publishing houses have acquired lots of smaller companies (called imprints)
– e-books and digital are no longer seen as a separate division but is part of standard publishing
– Amazon has totally changed book purchasing but recently Bookouture are an interesting company to watch as a innovative competitor to Amazon
– publishers think of the customer as the end reader and not the bookstore, as buying tends to be much more end-consumer led
– budgets and cost are increasingly important as books will only be published if likely to be successful
– self-publishing is more prevalent but tend to be lower quality publications than those  published by established publishers.

> Two of the panellists now work as freelancers. With freelance work, you have to have an established base of clients and credibility, but your hours are your own. Most people move to freelance editing after building up contacts and a reputation in the industry.

– UCL Careers Media Week Team

UCLU Health Volunteering Fair is coming…

UCL Careers16 November 2015

Calling all students interested in volunteering in the medical sector – UCLU’s Volunteering Services Unit is holding it’s first ever Health Volunteering Fair on Thursday 19th November, 5-7pm.

Come and find out more information on the many diverse roles available and how you can make a real difference to people’s lives through volunteering. Exhibitors include Centra Volunteering, Hestia, The Camden Society, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Centre 404, Resources for Autism, VoiceAbility and more.

Health Fair

The team from UCLU’s Volunteering Services Unit will also be on hand to answer your volunteering questions.

The event is catered, so you won’t need to miss dinner!

You’ll find us in the Haldane Room, off Wilkins North Cloisters, from 5 – 7pm.

Tell us you’re coming via facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/527398120769848/

UCLU’s Awesome Autumn Volunteering Fair – Thursday 29th October 2015

UCL Careers27 October 2015

At UCLU’s Volunteering Services Unit, we’ve got so many activities on offer that we couldn’t fit them all into one fair- so we’re having another one on Thursday October 29th, 12 noon – 3pm, Wilkins South Cloisters.
AWESOME AUTUMN page image

With 40 different recruiters, including: Age UK Camden, English Heritage, Westminster Befriend a Family, London Youth Games, Marchmont Community Centre, North London Cares, Parkinson’s UK, National AIDS Trust, London Air Ambulance, Macmillan Cancer Support, Camden Citizen’s Advice Bureau Service, The Foundling Museum, Latin American Disabled People’s Project, The National Autistic Society, and more.

Volunteering is a great way to discover London, meet new people and learn new skills whilst making a difference – so come along and find out what it’s all about.

Don’t miss out! To find out more, visit www.uclu.org/volunteer-fair