My name is Max and I am a 4th year MSci Biological Sciences student. One of the greatest challenges I have faced throughout the course of my undergraduate degree has been finding a productive way to make use of my summer breaks and gain work experience (in addition to enjoying some well-deserved time off, of course!). This summer and the past one have been especially challenging for science students since COVID-19 restrictions have made it increasingly difficult to gain degree-relevant field and lab work experience. For this reason, I decided to explore alternative work options and chose to dedicate this summer to developing my transferable skills.
During my search for potential opportunities, I came across various social media posts advertising internships within the University. I had not been aware of this initiative until then, so I decided to click on the link and find out exactly what these internships were all about. To my surprise, I was re-directed to a page containing detailed descriptions for 12 unique internships with different departments across the University! While reading through each job description, my enthusiasm for the idea of becoming an intern grew and I decided to apply. I could not get over my luck of coming across this internship programme, as it was exactly what I was looking for!
So, how did the application process go? First of all, I decided to narrow down my options from the list of 12 by reading the job descriptions and person specifications; this allowed me to figure out which internships would be best suited to my skills and interests. To follow up on this, I got in touch with staff contacts to make an informal enquiry and discuss my potential role over a Microsoft Teams meeting. With all of this information in mind, I decided to apply for a position within the Postgraduate Research School; the team seemed lovely and, as an aspiring research student, this seemed like the ideal department for me to gain work experience in and learn more about.
Some careful planning went into the process of tailoring a CV and covering letter to send back to the Postgraduate Research School. I took time to reflect on some of the core skills included in the person specification for this role, and made sure to provide evidence of my compatibility by listing past work experience and relevant achievements in my CV. Next came the covering letter. Here, I decided it was essential to explain both why I was interested in this specific role as well as what I could offer in terms of skills and general enthusiasm. Once my initial draft documents were ready, I made use of the Careers and Employability Service’s Virtual Adviser function to get an expert opinion on my application. After incorporating their helpful comments into my CV and covering letter, I submitted the application and looked forward to hearing back.
A few days later, I was excited to hear that I had been invited to an interview! The interview was to take place online, which was a completely new experience for me. In a way though, I almost felt more comfortable with the idea of being interviewed from my own home (a more familiar environment than your average conference room!). I prepared by ‘revising’ the job description and by thinking of potential questions (and how I would answer these). When the day came, I was greeted by a panel of 3 staff members. The atmosphere was laid back, so I immediately felt at ease and tried to treat the interview as a formal ‘chat’. I was asked questions about my interpretation of the role, my past work experience, my core skills and my opinion on some of the department’s core objectives. At the end of the interview, I was pleased with my answers and remained cautiously optimistic while awaiting the panel’s final verdict.
About a week later, I was delighted to receive an email offering me the position! I breathed a sigh of relief and could not wait to get started. Now that my internship has finally begun, I am even more sure that this will prove to be a valuable experience that I look back on fondly in the future. For anybody else seeking summer opportunities, be sure to consider the Aberdeen Internship programme. Your ideal work experience could actually be right under your nose, provided by the University itself!