Thanks so much for joining us, Kevin! Can you briefly tell us about the host organization for the internship?
I completed an internship program at the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti in Florence, Italy from May to November 2021. As an intern, I was assigned to the Research on Education and Development (READ) Unit and was involved with the Data Must Speak Positive Deviance Research. As part of the research team, my tasks and responsibilities include, but were not limited to: a) supporting with quantitative and qualitative data analysis of existing administrative datasets; b) participating in the development, review, and finalization of knowledge products, such as research reports and policy briefs; and c) planning and executing knowledge dissemination activities, such as webinars, conferences, social media contents.
What inspired or motivated you to apply to the organization?
Having completed all of my education through the public school system in the Philippines, I experienced first-hand the ills that continue to plague the system. From overcrowded classrooms to overburdened and underpaid teachers, to low student learning outcomes – I have seen them all. Despite significant education reforms in the past, the learning poverty in the Philippines remain really high.
My experience in the country’s public school system ignited my passion to contribute to making education more accessible and quality through research and policies. My aspiration is that all children and youth in the Philippines are given the opportunity to learn and reach their fullest potential. Recognizing that UNICEF Innocenti undertakes “cutting-edge, policy-relevant research that equips the organization and the wider global community to deliver results for children”, I once told myself: “I want to be part of this mission”.
How was your experience interning at the organization? What was the most rewarding thing about your internship at the organization?
My internship experience at UNICEF Innocenti was truly transformative. I clearly saw how sincere and passionate the people in the organization are in producing impactful research. Before my internship, I honestly thought that I would only be learning how to clean and analyze quantitative and qualitative data. The internship gave me more than that – I learned how to harness the power of research to make impactful changes. This ultimately fueled my desire to continue working with and for the children.
Can you give a brief summary of the internship process, from the application phase to the final stage?
The internship application process at UNICEF commences with a job post on the UNICEF Careers website. Internship openings from all UNICEF Offices, including country offices/regional offices/HQ, are advertised on the website. From there, an application can be completed. Below is a step-by-step summary of the process I underwent, which will most likely not be similar to the process of other UNICEF Offices and UN Agencies:
a. Identifying an internship role that interested me through the UNICEF Careers website and completing my application through the portal. The portal asked me to submit various documentary requirements (e.g. CV, cover letter, sample works, etc.).
b. Receiving an email notification that I was shortlisted for the internship role.
c. Taking a written examination focusing on the position’s Terms of References remotely.
d. Receiving an email notification that I passed the exam and was invited for a panel interview.
e. Participating in a panel interview that included both technical and competency-based questions.
f. Receiving an email notification that I was one of the selected candidates.
Did your experience at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy influence your performance in any way?
My experience at WBS definitely contributed to my successful application process and helped me in performing the tasks and responsibilities during the internship. With not much background on the policy-making process prior to starting my MPP journey, the courses I took prepared me for the demands of the internship and working in an international organization. In particular, the course Introduction to Public Policy equipped me with technical and hands-on experience in developing policy briefs. This proved to be valuable during my internship given that the organization does not only conduct research but produces various knowledge products that are tailored to specific audiences. Courses such as Comparative Public Policy and Policies for Fighting Poverty and Inequality improved my research and critical thinking abilities. It is also equally important to note that the various courses I took at WBS honed my skills in writing and making presentations.
Additionally, the diverse and supportive WBS community – students, faculty, and staff – prepared me to work in a multicultural and fast-paced work environment. In particular, my experience at WBS helped me become more adaptive and proactive whenever I am in a new setting.
What skills or previous work experience do you consider helped you in getting the intern role and performing your responsibilities well?
My background in social science research (in both quantitative and qualitative methodologies) and previous professional experience with different organizations working in various capacities (e.g., fieldwork, program management, and monitoring and evaluation) contributed greatly to my getting the internship role and eventually performing my responsibilities. Additionally, my skills in developing communication collaterals came in handy in supporting my team during the internship with knowledge dissemination activities.
What new skills, techniques, and knowledge did you gain or further develop during the internship?
I gained valuable knowledge and developed various skills during my internship. In particular, it helped me gain a better understanding of the realities and challenges of the education ecosystem. Additionally, the internship exposed me to various approaches and methodologies – beyond conducting research – to improve research uptake and sustainability. They included, but were not limited to, ensuring buy-in from all levels of partners and stakeholders, co-creating research with partners and stakeholders from the onset, and working hand-in-hand with donors.
On a more technical aspect, I had a chance to work on large administrative datasets and prepare them for analysis. In particular, our team worked on cleaning and merging several education-related datasets using R software. Additionally, I also worked a lot with the communications team to ensure that our research and any knowledge products from our research are disseminated effectively. All those were valuable learning that UNICEF Innocenti had graciously imparted to me.
Do you have any general tips to students intending to apply?
I think that there is no 100% accurate recipe for landing an internship role at any organization. We should also recognize that there are inequalities, biases, and discrimination in internship/job applications. However, do not make them stop you from applying. As such, I would like to share a couple of short and quick tips regarding internship/job applications that I learned before, during, and after my internship:
- Spend time reflecting on your personal and professional goals and the kind of experience you want to have before applying to anything. Know your strengths, weaknesses, and interests.
- Be strategic about how you would showcase yourself in the application. Be genuine in your application. Also, be intentional on everything you include in your application. Have another pair of eyes review at least your CV and cover letter.
- Apply, apply, and apply. Any organization will seem far-fetched until you apply, get the experience, and learn from those until you get an internship role. Apply to official calls. And reach out even if the organization does not seem to have an active internship opportunity.
- Do not hesitate to connect with previous and current members of the organization with that you would like to do an internship. Drop them a message on LinkedIn or email them. There are a lot who will really respond and even help you out.
- Take it easy. Do not put a lot of pressure on yourself. Enjoy and learn from every step of the process (including the rejections).
Any final words?
Best of luck to all Brandtians!