To internship or not to internship

Executive Intern Jenny Llewellyn discusses the pros and cons of internships, and what an internship looks like at Good Things Foundation.

Last year I decided I wanted to find more meaning in my work, so I set out on a career redirection – going from a job broadly related to my scientific background to an internship at the social change charity Good Things Foundation.

It came at a time when I was re-evaluating what I wanted to do with my life. I remember well-meaning people expressed doubts about whether I should switch paths so ‘drastically’ and asked the inevitable question: “what about your science degree?”

But the decision was based on the package of development opportunities, new skills, experience and overall quality of the internship offered – rather than a desire to ‘ditch science’. I wanted to apply the skills I had learned to something new. While it might not be the right path for all, it certainly was for me and was easily the best decision I made last year.

Not all internships are created equal

It’s fair to say not all internships are created equal. The typical idea of an internship is someone collecting a round of coffees for the rest of the team. A lot depends on the style of the organisation and the amount of effort it is willing to put into a mutually beneficial internship programme.

My first role after leaving university was technically an internship to start with, but in reality, it was just the term the organisation used for the probation period, and no development plan came with it. It then automatically became an Officer position after I had passed the probation period.

Why Good Things Foundation is so special

The experience at Good Things continues to be very different. By design, the working culture is friendly, supportive, open, and respectful, from the senior management team to the rest of the wider team. Having worked with Helen Milner OBE – our dynamic Group Chief Executive – directly in my internship for over a year, I’m happy to say she’s one of the most enthusiastic, open-minded, and down-to-earth people I’ve ever met. You only need to watch her speak in public to understand that. My opinions hold equal value in meetings, there’s a freedom to respectfully question decisions, and development is high on the agenda for all staff, including interns.

Good Things Foundation knows the value interns can bring, and supports their role in the organisation. When I started my role I was one of three interns and there is real value in that shared experience. The HR department and senior management team have a real dedication to making the organisation be the best it can be. I’m not saying everything is perfect. We’re always looking to improve – but it’s the way the organisation responds to issues that really matters.

For example, following the Black Lives Matter movement, we’re addressing ways to improve diversity in our organisation. This is a work in progress. We know more needs to be done – but from the top-down, it’s seen as an important issue and staff-led working groups are helping to guide the improvement of the organisation.

Our values are at the heart of everything we do and form a key part of the workplace culture. All staff are joined by these values. There’s a strong sense of unity here, epitomised by our vision: ‘a world where everyone benefits from digital’, and a commitment to helping the community partners in our network support people to benefit from digital. This vision is embedded in the organisation. Before starting this role, I didn’t realise the difference working for a mission-led organisation would make. I am so much happier doing something with real meaning.

My advice – if you have an interest in the intern job description and are excited about making a difference then apply

If you happen to be reading this because you’re interested in applying for an internship at Good Things Foundation I’m obviously a bit biased – but I’d encourage you to apply even if you don’t think you’re the ‘perfect candidate’. No such person exists. Though I had some experience and transferable skills I did not tick every box on the job description (in most cases nobody does). If you are passionate about social change, willing to learn, and get stuck in you already have aspects of what we are looking for. I’m so glad I took the risk.