Blog: How a micro-internship 'holiday' can broaden skills without disrupting research

A micro-internship at an Oxford start-up presented the perfect opportunity for a committed first year doctoral student to diversify her skillset during her studies.

Siyang Zhou, who found the week-long opportunity on Oxford University’s Careers website, had been keen to explore education marketing in tandem with her DPhil in education. The micro-internship with Global Academy Jobs, which promotes academic jobs from partner universities to early career researchers around the world, offered the chance to develop valuable marketing experience in the education sector; a field that Siyang had identified as a potential alternative to an academic career. Following her successful application, Siyang joined the company as Digital Marketing and Communications Intern for a week during her Easter break.

Tasked with contributing to the company’s digital communications and social media presence, Siyang applied her existing research, writing, and creative skills to generating fresh new content for their platforms; creating blogs, editing videos, and managing social media accounts tailored to the Chinese market – a key audience that the company had identified for scaling up their activities. As well as bringing her existing skills to the internship tasks, Siyang gained valuable hands-on digital marketing experience and the opportunity to develop new skills; for example, learning to use social media management and gif-creation software.

Although a relatively short internship, the week presented the challenges inherent in a dynamic business environment. The greatest of these was to adapt quickly to the new corporate culture, and to the less flexible working patterns that came with it. On occasion, Siyang found herself unsure of how best to seek guidance from her manager. She adapted quickly, streamlining all her queries into a single message on the company’s instant-messaging platform, freeing herself up to continue on other tasks and enabling him to respond when he could. New and emerging opportunities also required Siyang’s quick-thinking and initiative, as demonstrated when she flagged a relevant event to her line manager, who enthusiastically accepted Siyang’s offer to both attend and write a blog on the subject for their platforms.

The internship boosted Siyang’s confidence by reassuring her of the value of her existing skills and passion for education to the non-academic sphere, while also enabling her to develop new skills and an understanding of corporate environments – all in the space of a week’s ‘holiday’.

Top tips for making the most of a micro-internship:

  • Maximise your networking and learning opportunity by being sociable with your new colleagues. You can learn a lot over a cup of coffee!
  • Take notes of the steps you learn on each task, as it’s easy to forget even simple steps when something is unfamiliar
  • Take every opportunity to develop new skills that will boost your CV