Getting experience while studying

My name is Nico and I am a third year Liberal Arts student coming from Romania. This story is about how my previous position of vTeam Regular Projects Frontrunner helped me and why I would encourage more students to apply for one.

The road toward getting the position was not long as the purpose of a frontrunner position is to offer the students the opportunity to gain experience and earn money while they are studying. When I came here I did some volunteering and really liked that I could gain valuable experience in helping people and develop my skills. I joined different societies in my first year and became a member of the committee for one of them. This helped me learn how to organise events and to acquire more skills. Being involved in many activities would make one realise what he/she is good at and maybe find new interests.

I found out about the Frontrunners scheme by seeing a post on Facebook and realised that vTeam had their own frontrunners at the time. I did not apply for other placements as this is what I wanted to do. I applied for the two vTeam placements and received the Regular Projects one.

This was a great first opportunity for me. My impression was that this position would be suitable to me as it could be that placement where I might use my experience and skills in order to leave a legacy behind me. Being able to do something for the community and helping others is even better.

My last point in making this decision was something personal. When you were much younger, you may have been asked what you would like to be as a grown up. For me this created a lot of anxiety as I did not know the answer, not because I did not like anything or was not interested in anything, but I liked too many things and could not find out what I was good at (I am still looking for this).

My frontrunner position required me to work on a considerable number of different tasks and with people having different backgrounds and interests. In my position I had to supervise a few Regular Projects which were completely different and I liked this because I learnt something from different subjects (coding, science, finance etc).

My role as a frontrunner was to make sure that the activities of 9/23 volunteering regular projects were run smoothly. In order to do this, I had to offer my help to the Project Leaders whenever they needed as well as answering their questions. Likewise, I prepared all the equipment they could need making sure it was enough for their sessions and volunteers. I also had to keep the contact with them all the time. Every week I used to ask them about their upcoming sessions as I needed to book the taxis for them. Additionally, I recruited volunteers, Session Leaders and Communication Officers and worked on two Volunteering Fairs.

Apart form the regular tasks mentioned above, I also got involved in other projects. Although, I had to supervise 9 volunteering projects, I still had time to go to other projects where my supervisors needed help. I went to quite a few one-off projects where I coordinated the volunteers and took photos of the projects. Other projects I was involved in were the fortnightly sessions in SU Bar when I used to attract students to do voluntary work and 'Give It Food' campaign when we asked students to donate food that would go to the people from Colchester Night Shelter.

The position was challenging and rewarding at the same time. It not only helped me gain valuable experience, but I developed lots of skills: from team management, team work and organisation to communication, interpersonal skills, presentation and public speaking skills. I met new people and also made friends, but most importantly, after my placement ended, during the summer of 2016, I received 4 job offers out of which I accepted 2.

Now, in my final year, I have 3 placements: Employability and Student Engagement Frontrunner Plus, Research Assistant (UROP) for Institute for Social and Economic Research and Training and Development Assistant (internship) for Knowledge Pathways International.

My new position as a Frontrunner Plus has been really beneficial so far. Apart of the fact the it helps me plan my career better as I get advice all the time, I also had the opportunity to work on numerous projects and learn a considerable number of new things. I have gained knowledge about the Employability and Careers services and events. I met the the team and worked on different events such as Teaching, Law and Employability Fairs, Creative Access workshop, CV and LinkedIn workshops, Employability Week or the Career Conversations with Essex Alumni. I also learnt how to use online tools such as Trello, Adobe Spark and Career Hub.

As part of my tasks, I worked on newsletter and student engagement by creating blog posts, promoting the Employability and Careers events and researched graduate schemes, video interview, publishing industry and many others.

Applying and accepting this frontrunner positions were very beneficial to me. They are more focused on development of the individuals rather than just giving them tasks. After having a frontrunner and frontrunner plus, I am more confident when applying to jobs and answering the questions during interviews. My supervisors always helped me and given advice on how I can improve my CV and cover letter. Although not directly related to my future plans (working in international development), they helped me develop transferable skills and made me really flexible and adaptable.

This is my last year at the University of Essex, I am now confident applying for jobs in my career.

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