Michelle, can you explain what your day-to-day job involves?
Working in a students’ union never gets boring, and no one day is the same. My day-to-day job includes electing, training and supporting Course and Faculty Reps as well as researching and developing the academic representation structure and processes. This includes everything from developing, delivering and evaluating training sessions to putting up elections posters around campus; from researching how other students’ unions support their Academic Reps to social media and basic admin tasks. However, working in a students’ union you will often be working on ad hoc tasks as they come, and so I have also in the past six months organised the University Challenge team, taken photos at student demonstrations and promoted the organisation at campus fairs.
Can you describe the main motivating factor for why you joined Charityworks, and what motivates you now in your work? Has that factor changed?
Before joining the Charityworks programme I had spent some time volunteering for Amnesty International, the Citizens Advice Bureau and as part of the International Citizen Service (ICS) programme in Ghana. These experiences all contributed towards a strong desire to positively contribute to society, leading to my decision to apply for the Charityworks programme and a potential career in the third sector. My big passion is human rights, and by working for a students’ union I’m part of campaigning for the rights of students, in my case to make sure the student voice is being heard on academic matters. Knowing that my work helps to empower young people is what makes my job worthwhile, so in that sense my main motivating factor has now become to empower young people to make a difference.
How do you feel your first piece of impact research has been an important part of your professional development?
My first piece of impact research consisted of writing a 4,500 word business report exploring the communication, feedback and engagement of postgraduate taught (PGT) Academic Representatives at the University of Reading. This involved conducting a survey among the Academic Reps, conducting interviews with university staff and staff from other students’ unions as well as reading up on academic representation best practice. This piece of research really helped me to understand the difference between a business report and an academic piece of work, including the importance of well-argued recommendations focused on impact as well as the importance of brevity and presentation in order to be persuasive. The process of researching and writing this business report has definitely taught me some valuable lessons that I will be able to utilise in my future career.
If someone asked you to give an example of a particular moment where you knew your decision to pursue a career in this sector was right for you, what would you say?
In hindsight I would say that the particular moment or in this case event that sparked my interest in the third sector was a conference. As a student I was lucky to attend the Amnesty International UK Student Conference in London, a conference which came to mean a lot to me both personally and professionally. This was an opportunity as a young activist to feel empowered, campaign for something that I believe in and to meet like-minded people, as well as realising that this amazing conference and organisation had people working full-time behind the scenes. Before getting involved in the Amnesty student movement it hadn’t occurred to me that campaigning, activism and volunteer management were career options in the first place.