By Nishma Menon

13 February 2015 - 10:35

'Along with the ability to applaud others for their work, it’s very important to be coachable.'
'Along with the ability to applaud others for their work, it’s very important to be coachable.' Image ©

British Council

What qualities do you need to become a British Council intern in London and what opportunities can it bring? Nishma Menon, who recently completed her internship and now works full-time for the organisation, spoke to other former interns about the role. 

What personal qualities make for a successful internship?

Sam Gray, intern role: Records Management assistant

I don’t think there are just one or two qualities that can lead to a successful internship. As interns, we all worked in different departments, and naturally had different personalities. We worked really well as a group because we recognised everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. We didn’t go all ‘The Apprentice’ on each other – trying to get ahead of everyone else by making ourselves look good and pointing out other’s faults. Instead, we gave everyone the support and encouragement they needed.

Along with the ability to applaud others for their work, it’s very important to be coachable. The British Council offers endless professional development opportunities, so you need to be willing to learn.

What’s the most important thing you learned as an intern at the British Council?

Priya Minhas, intern role: Literature assistant

I could say simply understanding the huge scope of work done by the British Council. I thought I understood what they did when I applied. I didn’t.

The most important thing I learned as an intern was learning the value of working as a team. I was fortunate enough to share my intern experience with ten others. We had three months of real, hands-on responsibility, working on a high-profile project. Our success was completely down to our ability to support one another during this learning curve.

Also, I learned to recognise my own potential. This is testament to the scheme itself. The programme is specifically designed to be a rewarding learning experience from start to finish. We were provided with guidance and encouraged to talk to others across the organisation. As someone who has done internships in places where the employers invest very little in your professional development, and in some cases, don’t bother to remember your name, I cannot stress the value of this enough. I have walked away after three months with real, hands-on experience. The knowledge that I have made a worthwhile contribution to an international organisation is incredibly rewarding and has done wonders for my confidence.

Dominic Stockbridge, intern role: External Relations assistant

It seems appropriate that an organisation that leads on soft power should also go some way to teaching soft skills. Through our group project, I learnt how to identify strengths in my colleagues who hadn’t necessarily recognised that particular strength in themselves. This was also reciprocal, with people pointing out strengths that I never knew I had. It was hugely exciting to see individual confidence grow over the weeks working together, which led to a really positive group atmosphere both in a work and social environment! I moved on from the internship scheme with a lot more confidence and pride in what I do.

How did interning at the British Council prepare you for a full-time role in the organisation?

Elizabeth Irvine, intern role: Partnerships and Business Development assistant

My internship at the British Council was really practical and challenging which, in turn, prepared me for a full-time role in the organisation. From the start, you are given responsibility over certain projects which you then have to deliver. These are meaningful pieces of work which your line manager has prepared for you to ensure they have an impact within your team.

My internship was very well structured and allowed me to branch out beyond my team and work with other departments in the organisation. This is similar to how a full-time role works for most projects; you need to work across departments and teams to achieve your goals.

Sarah Giles, intern role: Corporate Communications assistant

The most valuable part of the internship was learning so much about how the British Council operates, as this really equips you in interviews when looking for a role within the organisation. The diversity of work the British Council does means it can take a while to get your head around the different departments and teams. Throughout the three months, I received endless amounts of support from everyone I worked with who helped me understand how the organisation works.

Interning gave me the opportunity to learn about the different kinds of jobs that I was able to apply for within the British Council – and there are so many! This experience has really helped me believe that getting to know an organisation gives you a strong platform from which to apply for jobs.

I would also say that interning offers a brilliant opportunity to find out whether or not an organisation works for you. In my case, I really enjoyed my experience during the internship and wanted to stay on to work for the British Council, and I think this enthusiasm helped me get the job.

How has interning at the British Council helped you gain other opportunities?

Michael Prescott, intern role: Film assistant

Thanks to the internship, I worked on projects such as film festival selector screenings at the two British Film Institute (BFI) venues, hosting programmers from Venice and Busan. I assisted in the set-up of the View From Here exhibition and its private launch, editing a catalogue to be used by We Are UK Film in the Toronto International Film Festival, and much more. These were unique opportunities, which have helped me demonstrate real experience in interviews since.

Where are we now?

Six months on from the internship, and we are all in quite different places. Two have taken their careers abroad to New York and China, the latter as part of the British Council’s UK-China scholarship programme. Five of us have stayed on inside the organisation, two others are back at university completing their final years, and the rest have continued in their chosen careers within other organisations.

Apply by 8 March 2015 for your chance to become a British Council intern in the UK. Applicants must have the right to work in the UK without restriction for the duration of the programme.

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