Case Study: Keith Yaxley
Internships: International Organisation for Migration and SNR Denton
The things I have learnt during my time in POLIS have made me wish to pursue a career within the field of international development, with a specific focus on human rights.
I started thinking along these lines towards the end of my second year, but had little experience I could show specific to the industry. I decided to visit the Careers Centre and staff there were able to give me a number of options I could pursue in order to gain relevant experience.
For the next few weeks, I called and emailed a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the Leeds/Bradford area to ask if they had any work experience or internship opportunities available. I also called a number of law firms in order to gain legal experience that could prove valuable if I decided to go down a more law-based approach to human rights.
I also searched through websites such as devex.com, idealist.org and charityjob.co.uk. Although most of the advertisements on these sites were for full time positions, it gave me an idea of the type of work I wanted to do, the type of organisation I wanted to work for and what skills I would need to get into these sectors.
International Organisation for Migration
I got a positive response from the Leeds office of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and went for an interview the following week. This went well and I started in September 2010.
This all came about due to me giving the IOM office a speculative call asking if they had any positions available. Coincidentally, I also emailed them with the same question and received a reply around a week before I started the position, advising they were unable to offer me anything at that time - it shows how important that personal touch can be!
IOM are an international NGO that seek to promote the humane and just migration of people across borders. They work closely with the UN and also provide disaster relief in times of humanitarian crises.
During my time with IOM, I performed a number of duties including:
- helping caseworkers with asylum applications
- assisting with the organisation of reintegration projects
- promoting awareness of the help IOM offers within the local community
I was given responsibility for the organisation of a video conference in Leeds between our office and IOM Lagos that highlighted the help available through them. This involved live speeches from those already in Lagos who gave an account of their experiences with IOM and the help they were able to offer to members of the Nigerian community in Yorkshire.
This gave me first-hand experience of what it is like to work for an international NGO and gave me a chance to see in practice some of the theoretical frameworks I had been studying during my degree. It provided me with transferable skills that will prove valuable in the future, as well as providing me with a network of contacts that I can utilise for future job opportunities.
I also sourced a week’s work experience with the London law firm SNR Denton through a friend who knew someone who worked in the company. Although not a firm who specialises in human rights, it provided me with valuable experience of what it is like to work within a legal environment.
This work experience however, made me realise I wanted to work within an environment with less emphasis on the legal aspect of human rights and closer to the type of work I had been performing for IOM.
Although both internships were unpaid, the work I managed to do has given me invaluable experience for pursuing my future career aims. These internships have given me an edge over other candidates in what is a competitive sector to get into, as well as showing my commitment to the industry.
Securing such positions requires a degree of luck but your chances are greatly increased through things such as the speculative applications I made to NGOs at the beginning of the year.
Such opportunities become increasingly available once you have your foot in the door and begin to build a network of contacts. I am now looking to gain international experience through an internship with an organisation such as 2WayDevelopment before undertaking a Masters in Human Rights.