On the various benefits of internships

By Adam Gordon, PGR Communications Intern in the Research Culture and Researcher Development Team

Adam in the PGR Garden

I didn’t expect to be an intern at 34. The word has strong connotations of coffee-making, sandwich-fetching, and the exploitation of free labour by large enterprises. Happily, none of these things are the case at UofG! As the PGR Communications Intern for Research Culture and Researcher Development (which, as the comms person, I have to say is a bit of a mouthful) I have had responsibility for our social media, emails, monthly newsletters and general chatter. These are all directed towards PGRs, but with a more relaxed and less ‘official’ tone than some other UofG communications might require. The role is a paid, year-long, part-time job, which has sat comfortably alongside my full-time research.

The primary benefit (I imagine) to Research Culture and Researcher Development of having interns who are also PGRs is that we are a bridge between two parallel areas of the university. We don’t have the expertise of the team, but we do have a sense of our PGR colleagues. We are closer to the ground, we can speak from our own experiences, and we can report back on conversations with  other PGRs. This is valuable input from one of the communities the Team seeks to serve. We also have the time to take on the extra stuff, the ‘wouldn’t it be lovely if’ stuff, for which regular staff don’t have the capacity: extra-curricular competitions, social media campaigns, weekly walks, gardening groups (see photos above and below)…

The primary benefit to me (aside from a steady job and helpful income) is that the role has helped me formalise skills developed over many years working freelance in the arts. When you’re freelancing it’s hard to get a reference from someone that says, ‘This person known what they’re doing in relation to X.’ Jobs are short, specific, and you’re mainly focussed on finding the next one, so that when you shift gears (or career paths) it can be tricky to demonstrate that you have transferable skills. The fact of having worked for an institution like UofG will be very helpful when I come to apply for the next job.

I’ve also had time and space to develop those skills in new directions and new contexts. I’ve never had ‘a boss’ before, or worked within an institutional or educational context, except as a contractor, and it’s been valuable to become more familiar with these spaces. It’s also given me space to consider building a professional services or ‘academia-adjacent’ career. This is a world I can’t imagine I would have discovered without the internship, but it’s one that I now feel suits my skillset and my personality. The internship has given me greater access to the university world, and has significantly broadened my horizons.

The sheer variety of a role like the one I’ve had has also been rewarding. I’ve spent equal amounts of time at my desk and out actually talking to PGRs. I’ve had opportunities to design and teach workshops, and to help plan events. These are not things I expected to be doing, but they’ve been the most fun and probably the most useful aspects of the job.

Research Culture and Researcher Development has been, simply, a really nice place to work, with a communicative and supportive team and a healthy attitude to work-life balance. The sole difficulty of the role has been time management. Adding a job to my doctoral studies, domestic commitments, and (in theory) having a life hasn’t always been an easy equation to solve. However, I have been very well supported by the team around me and have always been able to have frank conversations about time-management with my supervisors.

I’m not going to have a job this year if I can help it: instead, I’m going to focus entirely on my research and writing. However, one thing I will do is try to maintain the same work-life balance that I’ve been encouraged to develop in this role. The internship is a reminder one several things: there is life outside your research; there is work outside academia; it is possible to surprise yourself, even at 34! I’m glad to have spent a year in this rewarding role, and it’s clear that when handled adroitly these opportunities can offer immense benefits to both employer and PGR employee.

Several PGRs working in the PGR Garden

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