Social Media for Charities – Start Your Career With Pathways

Zoe Allen, MA in Conflict, Security and Development, and part-time Communications Manager

Zoe Allen is a current Exeter student studying for an MA in Conflict, Security and Development. Last year she took part in the Pathways to Charity and Development programme. Due to COVID-19, the programme was converted to a remote internship opportunity, with students undertaking internships in a variety of roles across a wide range of companies. 

I’m Zoe and I completed my Professional Pathways Internship with SAFE, a national domestic abuse charity based in Exeter as a Social Media Intern. After my internship ended, I was offered extended part-time freelance work managing their social media.

You can see the content I produced for SAFE on their Instagram page, and I managed their Facebook and Twitter accounts as well.

Outline the project you worked on during your Pathways remote internship. What achievements are you particularly proud of? 

As Social Media Intern for SAFE, I took a completely independent lead on the content and strategy of their social media platforms, drawing on my own experience and examples from the sector. No specialist had ever been employed for this before by SAFE, and the social media had all been handled by the team of therapists at SAFE who had limited understanding and even more limited time to handle social media. This meant it was disjointed, outdated and lacked storytelling. I helped organise the platforms so that they were better branded with more recognisable handles and logos and greatly increased the quality and quantity of content on the platform, as well as replying to comments and messages to help survivors access care.

I also expanded my skills by working on analytics tracking reports for SAFE’s board of directors, and creating SAFE’s first ever marketing and communications Branding and Tone of Voice document, to help the charity to continue to create content after I stop working for them.

I’m particularly proud of how I handled the learning curve that my work required in terms of learning more about domestic abuse and the services available in the UK. I started knowing absolutely nothing about the subject and have since written posts about trauma-led therapy, types of abuse and how to recognise them, and information about boundaries and healthy relationships.

How has your Professional Pathways internship helped you in taking the next steps in your career?

As I mentioned, the internship itself turned into an extended paid role which was of course fantastic for me financially and meant that I had a more extended and impressive experience to add to my CV.

The internship was also essential in me securing a permanent part time job with a fantastic refugee charity called Breadwinners, as their Communications Manager. It can get a little complicated doing both, and once I did post a picture of bread to SAFE’s account, which probably confused some people!

Anyway, my work with SAFE provided me with a tangible example of my social media skills (although I had already developed these a lot through volunteering projects, I can’t stress how important it is to do this too of you want to go into this area) and with valuable experience of working in the charity sector that really made my CV stand out.

Working with SAFE has also helped me learn a lot more about the sector, and working with a range of charities makes it clear where there are gaps in the charity sector where valuable work could be done. I have read a lot of articles about domestic abuse recently and discovered there is a real shortage of specialist care for refugee and migrant women, who are often asked for proof they are legally in the UK before they are offered help. There’s also a lack of specialist domestic abuse services for the LGBTQ+ community, and domestic abuse spaces are rife with transphobia. Both these issues need to be addressed.

Therefore, my work with SAFE has been essential to helping me work out where I want to work within the charity sector and that I’d love to one day lead a charity that helps those which are slipping through the cracks (or actively abandoned) by UK charities.

What advice would you give to a student who has to complete an internship remotely? Do you have any hints or tips on how to make the most of a remote internship?

The key to remote working is like anything: practice. Everything is hard until you’re used to it, and it will get easier with time. And in a couple of years everyone will be experts!

But, also, to make the most of your internship:

  • Keep closely in contact with your internship provider/colleagues, make sure you talk to them at least once a week by email and once every couple of weeks by phone/video call.
  • Remote internships often mean more freedom. Use this to explore the projects you enjoy, and hone your skills at them.
  • Don’t stress too much about it. They know you’re a student; they were expecting to hire a student. They won’t have through the roof expectations, and they won’t expect you not to have other commitments.

Applications for Professional Pathways 2021 close this week.You can find further details on how to apply here. The training programme will be delivered entirely online in June 2021 and we currently anticipate the internships will also be remote-working. 

Pathways to Career Development

Holly Van Ryssen, a 2nd year English student, worked as a Marketing Development Assistant for ‘Powderham Live!’ as part of our Pathways to Arts, Culture and Heritage programme.

Holly Van Ryssen, a 2nd year English student, took part in the Pathways to Arts, Culture and Heritage programme earlier this year. Due to COVID-19, Professional Pathways was converted to remote internship opportunities, with students undertaking internships in a variety of roles across a wide range of companies. Holly talks about her role as a Marketing Development Assistant for Powderham Live!’ and what she has gained from completing an internship remotely. 

When I tell people that I study English at the University of Exeter, I’m always met with the following response: “Ah, so you want to be a teacher then?”. Certainly, I’d be lying if I said that teaching wasn’t a profession that I’ve considered. However, I’ve always believed that the beauty of an English degree is that it enables you to study a subject you love while at the same time leaving your options open to explore several different career paths. Perfect for someone who can’t make decisions!

Going into my Second Year, nearly halfway through my time at University, I suddenly became acutely aware that I had no idea what I wanted to do at the end of my studies. I was keen to start exploring the options I had available to me and, was hoping to be able to use the summer before my final year to gain some invaluable work experience. When I heard about Professional Pathways, a careers scheme run by the University of Exeter providing sector-specific training and week-long paid internships, I knew that I had to apply.

Then, of course, Covid-19 hit. We were all sent home, the Pathways assessment centre was cancelled, and it seemed as though the prospect of a paid summer internship was firmly off the cards…

“Numerous cover letters, and a couple of video interviews later, I’d secured an internship as a Marketing Assistant at Powderham Live!. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!”

When I received an email from the Pathways team informing all applicants that they were working on securing some remote internships, I was shocked! While I felt terrified at the prospect of applying for and completing an internship entirely online, I knew that it was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down and that would provide me with invaluable experience moving forward into the future. Numerous cover letters, and a couple of video interviews later, I’d secured an internship as a Marketing Assistant at Powderham Live!. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

During my internship at Powderham Live!, I worked on many different projects, all of which aimed to find new ways to promote not only the event itself but also the young musicians and their huge network of supporters. In particular, I enjoyed creating a set of brand guidelines that will now be used to inform all content published by Powderham Live!, both in print and online. Not only this, but I enjoyed working on a new social media strategy; in recent weeks, it has been really rewarding to see many of the campaigns I planned featured on the Powderham Live! social media pages.

Having had little experience in marketing, I was worried before starting my internship that I wouldn’t know what to do! At first, both Emily (fellow intern and University of Exeter student) and I felt hugely daunted at the prospect of creating a professional document that accurately represented the values and ethos of Powderham Live!. However, both Derry (Heritage Manager at Powderham Castle) and AJ (Countess of Devon and founder of Powderham Live!) were extremely supportive, clearly explaining what they wanted while at the same time allowing us to indulge in our own ideas and creative spirit. We were even invited to whole team meetings where we were able to share what we had been working on and give feedback to the other team members!

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, I found it extremely rewarding to work on a project with a clear social purpose. I know that the work I carried out during my internship will not only help the team behind the scenes at Powderham Live!, but will have a huge impact on the experience of young musicians in Devon.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic, I found it extremely rewarding to work on a project with a clear social purpose. I know that the work I carried out during my internship will not only help the team behind the scenes at Powderham Live!, but will have a huge impact on the experience of young musicians in Devon. Indeed, at a time when the Arts, Culture and Heritage sector is facing unprecedented challenges, it felt amazing to work on a project that I know will bring so much joy to so many people, and that will help keep the magic of the arts alive!

Without a doubt, the experience I’ve had working remotely at Powderham Live! will set me in good stead when entering the job market during these difficult times. Thanks to the Pathways scheme, I’ve now had practice applying for, beginning, and completing an internship entirely remotely, an experience that I know will be invaluable moving forward into the future! In particular, I’ve been able to improve my video-based interview technique, as well as develop my ability to work from home productively, skills which will help me both when completing my third year of university online, and also when applying for jobs.

“Without a doubt, the experience I’ve had working remotely at Powderham Live! will set me in good stead when entering the job market during these difficult times. Thanks to the Pathways scheme, I’ve now had practice applying for, beginning, and completing an internship entirely remotely, an experience that I know will be invaluable moving forward into the future!”

When I received the email from the Professional Pathways team back in May informing us of some remote internship opportunities, I very nearly didn’t apply… However, I’m so glad that I did! While I’m still not sure what I want to do post-university, I now feel more confident about the prospect of graduating in the middle of a global pandemic! Pathways 2020 has taught me many things, most importantly, how to be adaptable and open-minded in the face of adversity. However, best of all, it has given me an answer to that dreaded question: “What did you do over lockdown?”.

Applications for Professional Pathways 2021 are now open! You can find further details on how to apply here. The training programme will be delivered entirely online in June 2021 and we currently anticipate the internships will also be remote-working.