The reality of virtual work experience during lockdown – BA Classical Studies & Comparative Lit student Maria’s story

From 15th – 26th February 2021, 26 students took part in our first round of King’s Insights Projects. The Shared Value project was a 2-week virtual internship, which placed students in teams to work as consultants to a real business, researching new ways for their client to grow their business in alignment with one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Today, Maria tells us about her experience with the programme. Applications for Insights Projects are currently open for the next cohort!

Maria smiling at the camera
Image from Maria used with permission

Hello, my name is Maria and I am a first-year student of a BA in Classical Studies and Comparative Literature. In the past few years, I have been working as a part-time tutor for high school students and as an Italian teacher. I always thought a career in the education sector or Inside University was the right one for me, as well as the most common path that people follow after undertaking my degree.

By taking part in several career fairs and events hosted by King’s Careers & Employability I discovered a range of almost unlimited possibilities of different works and careers I could follow outside academia. Therefore, when looking for work experience I have enlarged my research and I eventually discovered the opportunity in taking part in this project.


Why did I apply for the Insights Project?

What led me to apply to the Insights Shared value project was curiosity about consultancy; something I have heard a lot about but never had a proper idea of what was it. Furthermore, I was enthusiastic about working with a real company and gain a real-life work experience that I was lacking.

When I got accepted in the project I was uncertain about what I could bring to it because I didn’t have much knowledge or experience in the field. However, I think that for these reasons, the experience turned out to be extremely revealing. As I entered the project with an eye for discovery, I tried to immerse myself in the project as much as I could and make the most of all the activities we went through. Looking back, I would say the only prerequisites are the desire to getting involved and the willingness to learn.


A peek into what the work consisted

Alongside the main consultancy work with the client, each of the participants had to complete a mini personal journey on their skills and development. With the support of the learning platform Practera, we firstly did a scan of our Global Skills such as problem-solving, cooperation, and leadership at the beginning of the project, secondly, by completing short-tasks, we understood more in-depth these skills and worked out how to develop them over the two weeks. At the end of the project, we had a final reflection activity. What I enjoyed about Practera is that gives you many useful insights into different real work situations, problems, and possible solutions. After these activities, not only I could think back on my progress but I also received useful feedback from my team, which remembered me of the importance of repeatedly going through this process of self-analysis and improvement, no matter your experience.


Overcoming virtual work challenges

My biggest challenges have been on-line communication and collaboration. After one year that our lives have been moved online, collaboration without having a physical presence is still complicated and tiring. I was afraid of missing bits of conversation or experiencing connection interruptions that could damage the progress of our work. However, I was lucky to work with friendly and collaborative people, always ready to help. As a team, we got along very well, and it has been enjoyable meeting new people during this period of isolation. In the end, I was surprised that we never had particular communication issues or clashes of ideas as it often happens in team works when the deadline is tight.


Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Managing a work experience during lockdown – the reality

In these months of lockdown, I sometimes found it difficult to balance life and schoolwork, however adding this project to my daily routine, helped me to be more productive and optimize my time management, which I believe is one of the most important outcomes of this experience.

In this regard, teamwork has been very helpful. I usually tend to procrastinate on tasks and doing them over again a thousand times warring about the final result. However, during this project, I knew people were relying on my work and therefore I was motivated to organize my time in advance to complete everything respecting the deadline.


What I’ve gained….

Overall, we produced a good report and the client provided us with positive feedback.  I have gained insight into how to structure market research, competitor analysis, identifying customers, and how to structure a professional draft and the respective vocabulary. During our project, we utilized tools as WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, Google docs, and Canvas, which allowed us to communicate easily and fast.


My tips for students

To any future student who is interested in applying I would say not to be afraid to give it a try even if it is not directly related to your degree or the career path, you want to pursue in the future. As the Global skills you will earn, such as time management, communication, and problem-solving are live-tools that benefit anyone regardless of their occupation.

For me, this experience has been extremely eye-opening on my strength and weakness and it’s a great start point to start shaping my future. By working with stimulating people from different bachelors and years, I gained much inspiration on how to improve my professional profile. Furthermore, this experience not only gave me the feel for this kind of work environment but also increased my motivation to get involved in other extra curriculum activities alongside my degree.

Finally, I would like to thank you King’s Internships and Practera platform for the opportunity which turned out to be one of the highlights of this lockdown!


Applications for Insights Projects are open now and close on 29th March! Find out more and apply through our KEATS pages.