Professional Enhancement Year Reflection By kieran raza

Introduction

Following completion of my second year of university, I felt an uncertainty about commencing the final year of my undergraduate degree. Whilst I knew what my main passions were and had a range of experiences that gave me an idea of what I wanted to pursue as a career, I was unsure of the path ahead of me.

Therefore, taking part in this enhancement year of internships was essential to gain a better idea of the professional environment and to further broaden my skillset. I believe it will set me up in the most advantageous position following graduation.

Remaining in the UK would have had the benefit of cultural familiarity, no language barriers, and the security of knowing I could get the train home. But the enticement of discovering places I had never been before and being influenced by the workings in the industry abroad is what made me want to travel. I found internships in Berlin, Germany and in New York City, USA.

Expectations and Aspirations of placement year

When setting out on my placement year I had certain goals in mind.

These were:

• To apply my current skillset to a professional context and learn what is expected of me in a formal work setting.

• Become more independent and immerse myself in a brand new setting. This includes adjusting to language and cultural differences, improving navigational skills and meet. new people

•To rationally approaching challenges from living on my own in a different country.

• To identify my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to my working practices.

• To get a clearer understanding of what particular work I excel in and enjoy the most.

I kept these points in mind in any task that I did, be it at my internship or otherwise.

I had no idea what to expect. I was mostly nervous about being in new places. I was wary that I would lose my way, or run into trouble. I contemplated that I would not be good enough for my internships and would disappoint my bosses. Socially, I did not know how I would make friends or what impression I would make.

HashtagNow – Berlin

https://hashtagnow.co/

My first internship in Berlin was with a start-up company called HashtagNow. This is a website designed as a Twitter-based news page. The concept of the site is to act as a source to discover the origins and meaning of the top trending Hashtags every day. Each Hashtag has it’s own page with a description of it and some pinned examples of Tweets underneath. My job was writing the Hashtag descriptions and keeping the website up to date everyday in addition managing social profiles. I learnt about the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) and what online sites do in order to attain a higher Google ranking and gain more backlinks.

This company was very small, consisting of just my two supervisors and I. I preferred this to a larger scale setting as it meant I received constructive and focused feedback and it was easier to sustain communication.

"Unicorn, Berlin" The co-qorking space HashtagNow was based at

The office was situated in a co-working space filled with other start-up companies. The setting was open as opposed to traditional enclosed office spaces.

Networking was actively encouraged. Weekly breakfasts were held every Friday morning as well as various after-hours events. Every company worked in very different fields of the media and I learnt about their practices first hand.

People came from all over the world with very few of them actually being from Germany. It was a privilege to meet a diverse range of media professionals that I would have never have had the opportunity to interact with otherwise. I have kept in touch with a few of them, which may potentially be useful for contacts and opportunities in the future

My biggest success at the company was writing a description on the hashtag “#TwitterBlackout”. This was when users changed their profile pictures to a black screen in protest of Donald Trump. The Tweet sent out for this description became HashtagNow’s most viral as it reached over 3k retweets in a matter of days. This boosted the traffic dramatically to our page as well as adding backlinks from some major online news publications such as ABC News and USA Today.

The original Tweet as well as two examples of news sites that used the image with an explanation alongside it

From the mass amount of traffic I learnt how to manage a chaotic social media profile. The image with our description was Tweeted by several other users which were then linked in news articles instead of our original piece. Part of my responsibility was researching sites that had linked to the image used by other users to try to get links back to our original piece.

What I Learnt From HashtagNow

• I built upon my existing knowledge of utilising Twitter and the ways users communicate particularly with Hashtags.

• I learnt about SEO, of which I had no prior knowledge of.

•Dabbled in outreach to other websites in an attempt to build backlinks from content I wrote for HashtagNow’s blog.

• I work better in the less formal open plan “co-working space” environment as it feels less pressurised and I am inspired by what others are doing within the media field.

• The responsibilities in running a website and associated social media accounts. Sticking to a specific format and writing style and interacting with social media followers.

• I was introduced to the innovative fast-paced world of start up companies learning not only from HashtagNow, but discovering more from the other businesses in the office.

What I could improve on

• Occasionally I struggled to stick to deadlines and work efficiently on projects. Whilst I have a strong work ethic and prioritise getting pieces finished to a high standard quickly, there were times that work could have been done faster.

• Self-reviewing pieces for spelling and grammar errors. When writing for a website, consistency in correct spelling and grammar is vital. Similarly, I made occasional factual errors. Accuracy of information is key when it comes to journalistic credibility and could negatively impact the profile of the site.

Overall, HashtagNow was a great introduction to the fast paced world of start-up businesses. I highly value my experiences with the company and feel that I learnt a lot.

Gigworks – Berlin

My internship at HashtagNow was originally scheduled to last for 6 months. Owing to an unexpected gap in funding, the company changed its focus and shortened my internship to 3 months – meaning I had to find a placement for the rest of my time in Berlin. I researched several possibilities and found Gigworks, a new start-up in Berlin seeking copywriters.

Gigworks is developing an online platform for artists from a diverse range of creative industries, to promote their work, collaborate with one another and find paying projects. My job was to write articles that would appear on the website on launch, revolving around the music industry with advice and tips on how artists can advance their careers.

Similarly to HashtagNow, this company was based in another Co-Working space with an open spaced social orientated structure. They also had weekly Friday breakfasts with the opportunity to learn more about what other start-ups were doing and any projects or successes that had happened that week.

I was glad that the company was in a similar co-working space to HashtagNow. It further enforced that I work well in these more relaxed environments and found inspiration from others and my motivation was increased.

What I learnt from Gigworks

• To adapt my writing structure to fit a specific context.

• How to research topics thoroughly of which I was previously unfamiliar of.

• How to go about outreach to other artists to bring them in for interviews.

• To work to a schedule while prioritising articles.

• How to improve from constructive criticism.

What I could improve on based on my experience

• At times I struggled to edit articles following the feedback and had to do numerous rewrites. I could improve on writing based on a given pitch and have a clearer sense of direction prior to starting. This would avoid excess rewrites in the future.

• Times arose that I had multiple articles to work on and spent more time on some more than others. I could improve on prioritising pieces equally to work efficiently and produce consistently quality content.

Fictionless – New York City

http://www.fictionless.com/

I write this as I have just begun my internship with the production company, Fictionless, based in bustling New York City. This is the final internship of my enhancement year.

Fictionless produce video content, including short films, documentaries, advertisements and more, revolving around telling people’s stories. I wanted widen my limited video-production experience and find out first hand what is involved in working at a production company.

As I am at the start of my placement it’s difficult to reflect on my experience as wholly as my previous placements.

Thus far I have found that the team at Fictionless is passionate about what they do which I find motivational.

My responsibilities have consisted mostly in the realms of researching essential permits for future shoots, picking up lenses and hard-drives, and sorting through receipts for expenses.

One task I have particularly enjoyed was helping at a fundraising event co-hosted by Fictionless with a bill of comedians to raise money for ACLU. This was my first real taste of event management as I acted as a runner, escorting performers to the stage. I kept to a strict schedule to ensure everything ran smoothly. The fast pace of the night was exciting and there was rarely a moment to rest. Teamwork was essential. I worked alongside other interns, communicating about what was happening and when and got assistance when required.

I had not previously considered event management as a something that I was interested in, however this introduction to it made me open to it in the future.

What I Have Learnt from Fictionless So Far

• Communication is key at this company. Everyone who works there plays an individual role in their visual projects. Even I as an intern play a part in ensuring projects are carried out efficiently.

•I have learnt to seek specific instructions for the tasks I have been set to ensure I do exactly what is expected, and in the required time frame.

• Punctuality – as I often have to deliver equipment to a location in New York by a certain time.

How my enhancement year has contributed to my plans for final year and beyond.

Coming towards the end of my professional enhancement year, my interests in Media and Communications is still strong and my confidence in myself as a professional has grown stronger. I respond better to constructive feedback, I am aware of the things that I excel at and what needs improving.

As two of my internships revolved primarily around writing and researching, I recognise that this is a skill I do particularly well in and would like to pursue further. Journalism is something I have had previous experience with through music writing, but I would like to explore others forms of it such as interviewing people and telling their perspectives and stories.

Research was a key skill I practiced at both HashtagNow and Gigworks. Learning new information and seeking out what was necessary to write pieces invigorated me and is something I would like to do more of.

The common setting throughout all of my internships is the relaxed co-working setting that I thrived in. These spaces suit me best as I value the ideal environment for networking and gaining inspiration from others in innovative start-up companies. Having a space that I feel comfortable and relaxed in is also important for my mental wellbeing as otherwise it could feel too enclosed making the days drag on.

Conclusion

My professional enhancement year has been thuroughly productive and rewarding, despite the bumps I had to face along the way.

My most difficult time was in Berlin. Living in a new country on my own made even basic tasks more stressful. Aspects such as a different transportation system, a new currency, and of course the inevitable language barrier challenged me. I faced everything head on and thought every scenario through rationally. New York was easier as I have been to the city a few times before and was born in America. But, I still had to get used to commuting through the gigantic city and being there as a professional rather than a tourist.

I have enjoyed travelling and the time away from my studies, but I look forward to returning to University. This year has taught me skills that I can apply to my final assignments and I intend to further pursue the strands of media that I worked in. I learnt I can function better independently than I initially thought and my wariness of life beyond graduation has abated.

Credits:

Created with images by skeeze - "world earth planet" • tinto - "New York City" • ::RodrixParedes:: - "Berlín"

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