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 This meant it was disjointed, outdated and lacked storytelling.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.