A worthwhile year

‘As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.’

I first wrote this Amy Poehler quote in my journal in early 2014. It made me think of the incredible people I’d met through Student Hubs at that time. I’m grateful to have met even more of them since then, particularly during my time on the Worthwhile graduate scheme, which is quickly coming to an end.

Worthwhile grew out of Student Hubs’ previous placement programme and is now an organisation in its own right, supporting university graduates who want to make a social impact with their careers. Robbie and Laura, Worthwhile’s current dream team, place graduates in small charities and social enterprises and provide professional training throughout the year. Worthwhile – as well as other programmes like CharityWorks – fills an important gap, bringing talent into organisations that lack the capacity to compete with the big spenders on the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers list.

Since August, I’ve been the Communications Officer at Student Hubs. I was involved with Southampton Hub throughout university, so I felt fortunate to know the team and how the organisation works quite well already. My job this year has been exciting and stretching, I’ve made some close friends and I’ve experienced living in Oxford. Still, as you’d expect from moving to a new city to enter the working world, there were moments of stress and doubt. During particularly challenging points, especially when my health issues flared up, the support of the team was invaluable.

As the scheme finishes, I’ve spent time reflecting on my favourite parts and the lessons I’ve learned. Here are my highlights from the year:

The people
The other Worthwhile grads are some of the most motivated, socially conscious people I’ve met to date. I admire them and I’m excited to see what they go on to do. The same can be said for the rest of the Student Hubs team, as well as Robbie and Laura, who build supportive relationships with everyone on the scheme. A chat over tea with Robbie always leaves me feeling clearer about my goals and decisions. I’ve also been lucky to have Sarah, founder of Monthlies, as a mentor. Together we’ve talked through longer-term plans, managing uncertainty, achieving balance and life beyond work. If you’re reading this, thank you all.

The responsibility
There’s a reason why ‘bold’ and ‘ambitious’ are two of Student Hubs’ values. In my second week on the job, I went to Kingston Hub to deliver training I’d written the previous day to 40 students. Over the next few months, I led communications for the Emerge conference (more on that below) and ran a workshop at City Hall in London. I’ve been able to shape our strategy and put forward ideas, and I’ve been listened to when I’ve suggested changes in direction. I really appreciate working in an organisation that provides the opportunities, space and culture to do these things.

Student Volunteering Week
I was involved in running Student Volunteering Week in Southampton in 2014 and 2015, so being on the national team this year was an exciting development opportunity. I helped us to reach 12 million Twitter users, secured coverage in the Times Higher Education and Pioneers Post, and supported the Cabinet Office team to prepare a briefing for the Minister for Civil Society ahead of our celebration event. Plus, I got to see Jess, a friend from the Southampton Hub committee, longlisted for the Student Volunteer of the Year Award. January and February were tiring, but it was worth it to raise the profile of the community work that students carry out around the UK.

From September to November, I worked with a small team at the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship to run Emerge – a weekend of keynotes, workshops, masterclasses and debates on creating social impact. I learned so much during the process and had the privilege of meeting inspiring people from around the world.

January mini break
Thanks to a corporate sponsor cancelling a conference, we were treated to two days at a hotel in the Oxfordshire countryside. We had graduate training, followed by Team Day and a Gala dinner to mark the launch the Crowdfunder campaign I project managed, which raised £2000 for local programmes. It was a nice taste of luxury (my idea of luxury is a comfortable bed and free pineapple), but I still find it hard to process the fact that these kind of trips are the norm if you work for a big business.

Tour des Hubs
In April, some of the most adventurous Student Hubs staff cycled almost 400 miles between our 10 Hubs over the course of 6 days. You can read about their experience here. Seeing them persevere and raise more than £5000 for our activities was a high point for the whole organisation. Anna, Francis, Rachel, Tom, Catherine and Catherine, you’re amazing.

Hubathons are bi-annual training events for students across the network. It’s always lovely to see familiar faces, get to know new volunteers, learn from each other’s experiences and plan for the year ahead. I attended my first one in 2013 and tomorrow marks the start of my seventh.

That’s the end of the highlight reel, although I could share many more. I really recommend Worthwhile to anyone wanting to gain experience in a charity or social enterprise, challenge themselves and figure out what kind of work they want to do.

Learn more about the scheme.