It’s never too late to make the switch
As a prospective content design intern, my first proposed edit was to the job title
The word ‘intern’ has strong connotations of youth and inexperience. Why then, would a not-recent-university-graduated adult (like me!) choose to seemingly stall, or go backwards, in their career and do an internship instead of a “real job”? An understandable question.
A year ago, I’d been out of university for four years, and I was just starting to find my feet in the world of work. After a sizable stint in a marketing role at Deliveroo, I was ready to take my career in a new direction within the company.
As though it were fate, I found myself gravitating towards the content design team. I spotted their weekly content critique meeting in my then-colleague’s calendar, which welcomed writers from across the business to give and receive feedback on work. This colleague wasn’t up for going, so, keen to hear what other writers in the business were working on, I braved the meeting alone.
There were around eight content designers in that first meeting. I introduced myself and said I came to see the kind of stuff they work on, and to see if I can pick up any techniques or processes for my marketing role. A few people showed their work, then the rest of the team asked questions and offered suggestions to help them progress.
My brain felt invigorated after the meeting. So many perspectives were considered, ideas dissected and words analysed. I wanted more.
I went back to the meeting a few weeks in a row and brought some of my work to be critiqued. At that point, the head of content design asked me if I wanted to get a coffee as I seemed to be interested in what they were doing. With naive confidence, I asked how I could get onto the team. She said a good place for me to start would be with an internship. Okay, I thought, don’t be offended by this. I don’t actually have any content design experience. So, once I put my pride aside, I knew it was an interesting proposition to pursue.
I made it clear to the team manager that I wasn’t a recent graduate and candidly suggested different names for the role I hadn’t yet applied for. “Have you thought of calling it a ‘mentorship’? Or maybe a ‘training program’?”. No success. The manager said this was a standard name for a developmental role and it didn’t denote experience level. She was also amused.
In hindsight, I realise there’s some meta-irony in the potential content designer discussing a name change for their prospective role.
A shift in perspective
So, after learning there was no prospect of a name change, I realised I could change the way I thought about doing an internship. There was no one telling me what the word “should” mean, so I interpreted it to fit where I was at in my life. It could be a developmental role that would build upon my previous experience, taking me to the next stage of my career. The title no longer mattered to me. More irony? Yes.
By this point, I’d started to figure out the whole interning-as-a-career-development thing, but others hadn’t had the luxury of my hours spent pondering the subject. So when friends and family asked about my job it would go like this:
Them: “How’s Deliveroo going?”
Me: “Great, I just started a new role!”
Them: “Fantastic, what are you doing?”
Me: “It’s an internship, but not in the usual way, more in a career-switch kinda way. You know?”
Them: “Ahhh, um, yeah, right. Cool?”
It didn’t seem like we were on the same page.
Even when talking to fellow Deliveroo employees, I often assumed they thought I was inexperienced. I found myself wanting to give the I’m-not-a-recent-graduate spiel so I wasn’t undermined, or left out of important work things. I felt like a misunderstood teenager. Ugh, no one gets me!
At the beginning, I wondered if I was making the right choice for my career. But as I learnt more about the job landscape, I realised the chances of becoming a content designer without an internship would have been a lot slimmer. As the UK tech industry has developed in recent years, the content designer role has become more defined and sought after. It’s now more difficult to move sideways from writing roles like copywriting and journalism, as employers are looking for previous experience within product teams.
The value of the opportunity sank in. I had the chance to change the direction of my career, learn a new role and break into a different industry. I started to embrace being an intern.
Interning when it’s not your first job
Unlike other new jobs I’ve started, I wasn’t expected to hit the ground running with this one. I was given time to explore the many new things that came my way. In the past, it’s been challenging to produce work fast while learning when it’s all still so new. The developmental nature of the internship gave me permission to embrace slowing down, explore different concepts and get things wrong.
But the thing I found the most beneficial was the clear end goal. My manager and I set out a plan with steps to get from intern level to a more experienced, permanent team member. This actionable path to success kept me motivated throughout the six months.
Starting a new job also means getting used to a new company culture. The fact I was already an employee within Deliveroo helped a lot. I was able to spend more energy thinking about work rather than getting to know the company’s idiosyncrasies (like what time snacks are available, and the acceptable time to play table tennis).
So if there are other roles you’re interested in at your company, don’t be afraid to message the team manager and meet them for a coffee (or non-caffeinated equivalent). Ask them if they have an internship available, or if they’d consider creating one. Worst case scenario — they don’t have anything, but now you’re on their radar. Best case scenario — they think it’s an innovative idea and will try to make it happen!
The latter scenario may seem far-fetched, but you could be the person that gets the ball rolling. Reach out — what have you got to lose?