Katherine Maloney interned for TP last summer as part of a placement with Birmingham University. #
We were hugely grateful for Katherine’s support and delighted by the fantastic results she achieved!
Being one of our first ever interns, we asked Katherine to share her thoughts on her role, what she gained and her advice for future interns.
My experiences of virtual internships
In my second year of university, I came across my first virtual internship in a weekly careers email. It was a fairly new concept at the time and the first internship like this that the university was offering. It seemed like an excellent way to gain some useful work experience alongside my degree and I was especially excited as it involved working with a social enterprise based in India, to help them with one of their campaigns on sustainability. As a person interested in potentially pursuing a career in sustainable international development, I jumped at this opportunity and was lucky to end up being a guinea pig for the universities first-ever virtual internship!
If you’re reading this blog, I imagine that like me, you are interested in this type of opportunity too! Breaking into the world of international development is tough, and as I’ve come to realize both before and since, finding work experience like this can be very challenging and highly competitive!
Inspired, and keen to expand my knowledge of how small social enterprises and NGOs work I applied for more virtual internships. The most recent of which was with Think Pacific last summer and during my time working with them I fell in love with TP’s values and mission!
So, before I go into any more detail, it’s probably important to mention my virtual internship with TP was not quite the same as the internships now being offered through their exciting new virtual internship program.
Unlike the new internships, which partner you with local Fijian organisations, I worked directly with TP as a charity fundraising research intern. The new internship program looks incredibly exciting as interns get the chance to work with and add value to local Fijian government departments organisations!
My role as a Charity Fundraising Researcher
So, without further or do…my role as a …Charity fundraising researcher!
This role focused on looking for fundraising opportunities for volunteers and TP. To give you a better idea of what this involved here’s some examples of my tasks:
- Improving and updating TP’s fundraising guide
- Creating images for social media about fundraising
- Creating fundraising posters for volunteer use
- Making a fundraising film for volunteers
- Researching grants for volunteers and Think Pacific
- Compiling a ‘guide to grant applications’ report for TP presenting research findings
As you can see, I had some valuable tasks which taught me a lot of skills during my internship including how to research, edit, learn about new software, make films and posters, write reports and how to present and communicate all of my findings with TP.
As well as the tangible skills I found myself gaining, my internship with TP increased my confidence and motivated my career path.
The benefits of interning at TP
One of the big benefits of working with TP was the size of the organisation. TP is a relatively small organisation, which means all their staff are extremely enthusiastic, hands-on and grateful for the work you produce. This might be partly attributed to the fact all the staff have personal experiences working in Fijian communities, so they are very passionate about driving their social mission in Fiji, which makes for a really positive work atmosphere!
I was also impressed by the way programs are designed and delivered through partnerships with local authorities and organisations in Fiji. As a small organisation, TP has been able to really uphold their values and ability to deliver sustainable, ethical programs that Fijian’s are actually requesting! It seems to me, looking at some larger charities when work is scaled up their mission can sometimes get lost amongst the bureaucracy. So for me, it was great being part of a smaller team whose values, mission and ethics are clear and I was motivated knowing my work would have a positive impact!
Why I loved my internship
I found a virtual internship with TP the perfect way to explore international development work without having to leave the country. It will allow you to test the waters before embarking on an international placement. Equally, anyone who is confident that they want to pursue a related career this is the perfect entry point (and let’s face it, the only real option while the world is in lockdown!) so get ahead of the game and get some impressive international work experience from the comfort of your own home!
This virtual experience improves future job opportunities and helps create a global network.
Careers with charity and in international development are competitive and the market is quite hard to penetrate. As I’ve said, you often have to start by doing internships or volunteering, but these experiences can be invaluable as they connect you with real organisations and real people!
The network you make during your virtual internship may well lead to a job! My internship with TP last summer resulted in me gaining a role as a team leader with TP in Fiji, just an example of the very real opportunities that might arise from your internship and network. Most (if not all!) of the staff at TP started off as volunteers which progressed into careers, so do add your colleagues on Linked in and keep in contact
Developing ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills
Virtual internships provide a different type of work experience and emphasize different skills compared with normal internships. So usually, skills can be categorised as ‘hard’ or ‘soft’. Hard skills are tangible like how to use excel or run a social media campaign. Whereas soft skills include things like time management, work ethic, communication and confidence. In my experience, I’ve found virtual internships have especially helped me improve my soft skills, which I think is largely down to the independence and flexibility that comes with a virtual internship. The most valuable ‘soft’ takeaway from my internship with TP was learning how to use my initiative and trust my judgement which increased my confidence. Looking into the future, the internship provided me with relevant hard and soft skills, as well as the opportunity to enter world of international development
TP provides sustainable ethical programs so you know that your hard work will have a direct benefit to a Fijian communities. As I mentioned earlier, it was so encouraging working with a smaller organisation where you’re motivated knowing that your work will have actually have a positive impact in Fiji
it doesn’t matter whether you’re looking to jump into a career in international development, gain some valuable and transferable work experience, learn about a new culture in lockdown or just make a positive impact to a Fijian community – a virtual internship with TP will offer you an amazing opportunity to learn alongside an international team, challenge yourself and gain a global perspective…which sounds better than binging another Netflix series to me!
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