A degree of uncertainty – how internships changed my life

Mike, JVN (nearly ex-) intern

This week the JVN team bids a very fond farewell to our Intern Mike who’s off travelling to Australia for a few well-deserved months of travelling. Whether it’s been the Yoni Jesner Awards or school 6th Form volunteering fairs – Mike has made a great contribution to JVN.  For his goodbye, we couldn’t help asking him for one last thing – a frank look at internships.  Here’s the results…

Last September 5th, life was great.  I’d handed in my Politics MA dissertation, the culmination of 12 months’ hard work, strolling out of Manchester Uni’s submissions office without a care in the world.  It was even sunny – a Manchester first!  I spent the afternoon in the pub with my mates, talking (and drinking) as though we had just lived through a nuclear apocalypse.  Student life – that terrible, never-ending barrage of essay deadlines and hangovers – was over!  OK so I exaggerate, but a certain weight had definitely been lifted.  It was only in the days that followed that the terrifying question that nags at the back of the mind of almost every soon-to-be-ex-Humanities-student came to the fore: Now what?

My first obvious answer seven months ago was, get a job, preferably something in politics.  But I soon found this wasn’t an option.  I wrote to every political contact under the sun and applied for every job going, but to no avail.  It’s experience you need now to get a job, not just a good degree – or even two!  Funny then, that my second-best option – an internship – has honestly changed my life.  

Interning for JVN has given me first-hand experience of the charity sector, a new direction to my previously vague career plans and, most importantly of all, the experience I need to get started.  I would thoroughly recommend interning almost anywhere to any fresh graduate who is unsure of where they want their professional life to go.  Sure there’s the odd boring day, and, chances are, you won’t get paid a huge amount, if anything bar travel and lunch money.  But you get three invaluable things for free:

  1. Experience of real working life and a great addition to your CV;
  2. A great chance to network with professionals who may be able to offer you work later on; and
  3. Provided you work hard, making a good impression, a glowing reference for potential employers

Internships have been given a bad press recently, but I have not only gained experience, contacts and a reference from my time at JVN; I have also genuinely enjoyed myself.  I have also been fortunate to experience a completely different internship as well, in Lord Janner’s office.  If you play as one of the team, you’ll be treated as one of the team.  You’ll get to ask questions to people really in the know, you’ll have access to information few other people do, and, at the very least, you’ll know by the end whether you want to further your career in whatever particular sector you are working in by getting an insight into your colleagues’ jobs.

So to any graduate who doesn’t know what to do next, I would definitely recommend an internship.  Of course, there’s regular volunteering for one of the thousands of worthwhile causes out there, but with an internship, whether you take up a formal paid one or a charity-based one, you can make a huge difference to your own life as well.  If the charity sector particularly interests you, or even if you’ve never considered it before (as was the case with me), the JVN Internships Page should keep you busy.  And even some companies who don’t offer internships now might be able to offer you something if you approach them – sometimes all it takes is the initiative.

The future’s a whole lot brighter for me now than it was in that Manchester pub seven months ago.  So go on, give interning a shot!  Here’s to great things to come!

If you’re interested in interning with JVN, please contact Leonie Lewis.



Categories: Volunteering, Volunteering Issues, Volunteering Perspectives


Hi, I'm Mike, JVN's Youth Co-ordinator and blogger. I'll be blogging about all sorts of issues affecting the volunteering community, with a particular focus on how recent developments might affect the UK Jewish community's volunteers. I'm always interested to read the comments you make. If you have something you want to see in the JVN blog, e-mail me at mike@jvn.org.uk and I'll be happy to talk. And if you're inspired by any of my blogs to volunteer, log on to www.jvn.org.uk and register to find your perfect volunteering opportunity.


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