Welcome to the first of three blog posts which are informally split into: “all the things I wish I knew before I applied for my PhD internship”. These short memo’s are intended for those of you who may have never heard about doing an internship during your PhD, to those who may have even started applying!
Structure of the series:
- Tips to make your internship application a success!
- How a PhD internship could benefit you!
- Concluding thoughts: i.e. = “would I recommend doing an internship during your PhD?”
Hi, I’m Jodie; a third year PhD researcher (eeek!) in the School of Social Sciences (SOCSI) at Cardiff University. My thesis is investigating the impact and harm(s) of online anti-LGBTI+ hate speech.
My internship was a 3-month ESRC Wales DTP funded post at The Welsh Government (January – April 2021), and my project was titled: ‘Using the Understanding Society Study to explore societal changes during the COVID-19 pandemic’.
Now, you may have noticed that this project does not appear to be related to my PhD topic – and you would be exactly right – it didn’t. This may be more common than you think and sets up my first tip to think about how to ensure your application is a success…
- Think about what YOUR motivations are for applying
Your motivations are going to be personal – I get that, but when you apply for an internship, you are going to have to convince others that these are relevant reasons to pause your PhD. The most important are likely be your supervisors, as they need to ‘sign-off’ your leave when your application is successful!
Therefore, I would highly recommend talking through the opportunity with them.
When I first heard about my project from a lecturer, I had recently transitioned into the second year of my PhD. At the time, I was finding it a challenge to study isolated in the midst of the pandemic and I found discussing the reasons why I wanted to pause my PhD project really beneficial. My supervisors really helped me to articulate my motivations (so important for my application form), as well as raising some really crucial things I had not even thought of!
For example, are you just about to start up your methods write up, after months of data collection – is this really the time you should be thinking about pausing your PhD? Is the internship related to your topic? What do you think you would gain from putting your PhD on hold?
What I’m trying to ultimately get at here is… what value do you expect the internship to add?
For me, the value was not related directly to my PhD topic… but more that I would gain valuable experience in social research in another sector; I was keen to learn how research was conducted in an industry setting rather than an academic one. I also wanted to develop my communication skills outside of academia; learning policy appropriate language and report writing skills. Lastly, given my love for data, I was eager to advance my analytical skills and acquire appropriate presentation skills for a business setting.
Point being – assess the benefits of pausing a significant amount of time out your PhD.
- Allow sufficient time for the application process
It is not quick!
To give you an idea I have noted some key points in my application process:
Also – side note – in most cases, you cannot apply for an internship in the first 3-months of your programme or the last 3-months. If you are keen to do an internship, make sure you have thought about the right time to apply and checked any guidance you may have to adhere to!
- Plan, draft and re-draft your application form!
These were my go-to steps during my application process:
- Prepare for your interview
After the usual discussions of the placement, your skills/experience etc., there is a section for you to ask questions! This is your opportunity to ask as many relevant questions as you can, so that you can try and find out whether the prospective placement is the right choice for you.
My top questions were whether I would be able to connect with other staff outside of my ‘team’ in the Welsh Government; what the expected outcomes of my project were; what my working day would look like (flexi-time may be good if you often utilise the flexibility the PhD offers), and most importantly I asked how working online would work. As I was unable to enter the Welsh Government building due to the pandemic, I discussed with them how I would be supported, whether they would provide me with training/equipment.
- Research the internship host!
Research never ends! I used the Welsh Government website, social media platforms and asked other students about their internship experiences (the good and bad), to gather information about what my internship may entail and the ethos of the workplace – LinkedIn was really helpful for me actually! Anything you can learn before you start will be beneficial!
I hope this post has started making you think whether a PhD internship is the best fit for you and how to ensure your application is a success!
For now, keep an eye out for the next post which will cover ‘Why a PhD internship will benefit you!’
If you would like to contact me to ask anything about my internship experience or even to chat about PhD life/research – you can find my contacts below.
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Academic Twitter – @jodie_luker
Academic Instagram – @phd_hate_harms