My journey from QProjects to the Department for International Development: Part 1

Anum Ahmed is an English graduate from QMUL, and has recently featured on our Employability video. In a two part post she will tell us about her journey from doing a QProject to gaining a place the Department for International Development graduate scheme.

“If there were ever an opportunity to write a graduation speech I think many, if not all, graduates would reflect on their eccentric flat parties, their scandalous experiences at Drapers or their all nighters at the Queen Mary library.  However, for me I think one of the most crucial aspects of my university experience has got to be the opportunities I have gained as a result of my QProject placements.  I can say with great affirmation that the people I met whilst at my QProject internships were phenomenal and the work I was doing helped me become a better rounded individual.  People say that university is the place that helps refine your character and allows you to access a completely new world; well, they’re right and it’s QProjects that did all that for me!  I may sound really over the top about all of this but QProjects really allowed me as a graduate to step out of my QM bubble and into the thriving community of Tower Hamlets and beyond.  My QProject placements were a way for me to learn more about how I could make a positive change within inspiring organisations.  That’s really why I ended up opting for a career in international development!

ANUM Graduation 2014 165

For me, what really set QProjects apart from other internship schemes was the fact that this was a 3 month opportunity where undergraduates are given large scale responsibilities to make a huge difference within boroughs across London.  I was drawn by the QProject profiles which outlined the skills that I could greatly enhance and the contributions I could make to strengthen inspiring regional charities.  So, applying for a QProject within my 1st year was a no-brainer.  I was delighted to learn that there was a QProject role for an educational research leader at the Ragged School Museum in Mile End.  I immediately completed the application as the museum was very close to my heart; after visiting the Ragged School Museum at the tender age of 8 I’ve had a strong interest in Victorian history and literature and it’s probably one of the factors explaining why I studied an English Literature degree at Queen Mary. I can’t guarantee that this may happen to you but I even ran into Cheryl Cole on my first day at the Ragged School Museum. It was then that I realised that Tower Hamlets is a unique space full of fantastic surprises!

The Application

The most useful part of my QProject experience was the application process. Writing applications always tend to be stressful and time consuming especially when there’s a double bill of the Kardashians on TV.  However, as soon as you select a QProject placement you immediately have access to a detailed job specification which outlines all the skills and experiences that are required for the role; as well as a few key details about the organisation.  It was hugely beneficial to use the QProject job specification as a guide to tailor my CV to the organisation’s requirements.  I know from experience that external internship recruiters don’t offer these tips and hence this was a brilliant tool which crucially helped me when I began applying for graduate schemes in my third year.  Every QProject leader is also given the opportunity to attend a Skills Debrief session, either during or after the project, to help bring their CV up to date.  I attended a Skills Debrief session twice and on both occasions I learned all kinds of techniques that made my CV standout!

My Experience

Throughout my placement at the Ragged School Museum I had tremendous opportunities to learn about the ways in which primary school pupils across London were benefitting from the interactive history sessions they provided.  However, my role within the Museum was to conduct research into discovering a brand new key stage 3 programme for the Museum.  This involved analysing large volumes of data from schools, museums and literary archives.  As well as this, I organised meetings with museum curators and tour guides across London to learn about the Key Stage 3 programmes they offered.  After organising my research into a portfolio I received encouraging feedback from the Museum’s director and my research is now being processed for their upcoming exhibition.  Although it was a research intensive role I discovered that this practical experience was extremely useful when completing my 10,000 word English literature research dissertation in my 3rd year.  What I really enjoyed about working at the Ragged School Museum was the fact that I was trusted with a large project that could change the direction and profile of the Museum.  Being granted this great responsibility instilled a strong sense of confidence in me and I was motivated to excel as a QProject leader and leave a positive mark at the museum. Every week I felt valued by my colleagues for my fresh ideas and enthusiasm and even after my placement ended I was given career support by my supervisor.  If you’re looking for a chance to step into the big and bold world of employment then QProjects is the place to begin your journey.

And finally…

My top tip for others? The most important thing to remember when you’re on your placement is that you have the power to seek out more responsibilities.  You can help reshape the organisation for the better whether that’s through strengthening their online media presence or starting a new project.   So it’s all down to how you to use your initiative and make it a memorable experience.  Once you demonstrate your passion more doors will open and you’ll be well on your way up that career ladder!”


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