Katherine Nichol

Sociology BA

Katherine NicholDuring my four-week summer placement at Birmingham City Council, my role was based around shadowing the Director of Local Services.

This role involved many responsibilities, such as taking notes, carrying out administrative duties (such as sending and replying to emails), attending a variety of meetings, proof-reading and editing the Neighbourhood Strategy Green Paper and contributing to the organisation of the Neighbourhood Summit.

In my first week of the internship I was asked to create an executive summary of the Neighbourhood Strategy (a green paper outlining a new framework for the delivery of Local Services within Birmingham). This meant condensing a 30 page document into three pages for distribution at the Neighbourhood Summit. Although my version was not distributed in the end I valued the experience of working to a tight deadline and meeting it.

I believe my internship has benefited my future career prospects by giving me experience of working within a fast paced, dynamic, large-scale organisation. Additionally, I now know that if I’m interested in a career in research within the public or private sector I need to work on my qualitative and quantitative analysis skills. As such I have altered my dissertation topic to expand my skills in these areas.

The support I received from the University Careers network and bursary scheme was invaluable to me attaining and completing my placement. I managed to get a UK Professional Bursary to fund my internship. This helped me cover rent, food and bills for the month that I was at the council. I also undertook a mock interview session and extensively used the advice on the careers network to tailor my CV to a high standard. The Careers Network’s online advice on interview techniques and key questions was also incredibly informative and helpful.

My course prepared me for applying to the placement in that I had the necessary knowledge and passion for gaining work experience in the public sector. My modules in Politics and Policy and Social Policy were indispensable, not only in that they gave me a theoretical understanding of the sector itself, but the processes behind policy creation and implementation. This personal interest of mine was easy to put down when applying for the position.

Additionally the skills I developed during my course gave me the confidence to work in a professional placement as I knew I could produce work to a high standard and manage my time effectively - as I had done through my years at University juggling extra-curricular commitments alongside my university work.

In terms of the advice that I would give to people considering undertaking a similar placement:

  • Make sure you prepare well for your interview and take time over your CV and cover letter.
  • Look on the careers network for the preparatory questions which might come up in an interview - they are usually very accurate!
  • Also, dress extra smart on your first day. Remember, first impressions really do count! You won’t know what appropriate attire is until you’ve been into the office. It’s always better to be too smart than too casual!

Course information: Sociology BA