“Internships boosted my confidence and I’m 100% more prepared for the job I want”

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Many students and graduates pursue internships to build experience, but have you considered the broad range of benefits that could be gained? I caught up with Creative Arts Practice graduate, Lydia Jackson, to get her perspective on how she gained her recent internships as part of the Hallam Internship Scheme. During her internships, Lydia acted as Exhibition Coordinator for Platform 18 at Sheffield Hallam Students Union and Assistant Exhibition Coordinator at Cupola Contemporary Art.

Why did you want to undertake an internship?

I came out of University not knowing what to do to start my career, all the jobs I found required experience which I didn’t have. These internships make such a fantastic transition from the comfort of the university to the big wide world of jobs. They’re a great chance to get a feel for a job you like the sound of and for me they have changed my path to what I want as a career; they boosted confidence and give me a world of experience within my field and I now know what I want to do as a career and feel I’m 100% more prepared for the job I want.

What do you think you have added to the business?

At SHSU, I joined the Platform 18 team with a wealth of knowledge and experience in exhibitions, having done so many on my degree and being a selected artist in the previous Platform 17 exhibition. So, I feel I added knowledge to the team in what is required for an exhibition. I’m also a very organised person which was a very important aspect to have when coordinating an event like this, so I added further method to the exhibition. As a young artist fresh from a degree, I was very adaptable to the busy gallery life that Cupola was. I went in everyday with a new task to do and I believe I did so efficiently and rose to everything I was asked to do. I also had great input into their social media posts and adapted to their style of social media to encourage customers.

What has been the biggest surprise whilst completing your internship?

With both, I was very impressed with how capable I became, not only with the pressures of organising an exhibition and working in a busy gallery but using my initiative to think or do things before I was asked. I became independent in both of my internships quickly and made sure I fit in with my new surroundings and colleagues. I’m surprised with how much I’ve grown in such a short space of time and how much more confident I have become both personally and professionally.

What is the most exciting thing you did as part of your internship?

Working on the Platform Exhibition it was amazing how much responsibility they gave me and how much they valued my input. I think when you hear the term intern you expect to be treated differently as a junior, but it was really exciting to be treat as a valued part of the team and trusted so much. I became a vital part of the exhibition process and I think rising to that and having the attitude that you are part of the team and not just an intern really helped me with this. Overall the most amazing thing is that I’ve organised an exhibition that was in the Millennium Galleries that feels like such a big achievement for me. Another exciting aspect that these internships gave me was being asked to be a panellist at the ‘get_in there’, which is run by Sheffield Creative Guild, Sheffield Hallam Students’ Union and the university and attracted over 100 people. It was so amazing to be considered for this and realise how valued my opinion was, giving advice to people just about to graduate who were in my position. This was also great for me as I don’t consider myself a confident public speaker and doing this just helps me evolve in an area I want to improve.

What have you gained from your internship experience?

The confidence aspect is huge for me, It was so amazing to be there with the crowd when the doors first opened on launch day for Platform 18 – being told how well I had done and being thanked for all my hard work in the opening speech and by attendee’s at the exhibition was such a highlight for me, having been there through all the organising and finally seeing that come to fruition was incredible. Not only that, I’ve gained a lot of contacts through my internships and networking events that will be valuable to me from a professional and art world perspective.

Would you recommend an internship to current students?

100% yes! When I left university, I was thrown into this world and was unsure what to do, I was very persistent with wanting to achieve a career in the arts. I constantly sought advice and kept asking for help from the careers department at Hallam and it really paid off. Although I was unsure about what I specifically wanted to do, I was given great direction and now I know what I want to do with my career and I’m excited for my next steps.

Thank you, Lydia, for taking the time to share your experiences.

If you’re a student or graduate seeking an internship, I encourage you to search for opportunities via UniHub and to have a chat with your employability adviser if you’d like further advice.