I have been interning at Somali Public Agenda (SPA) since the beginning of July 2020, and this is a reflection on how the three-month internship experience has set me up for success. The experience was truly amazing. It opened doors for me that otherwise would have remained closed.
Reflecting on my first day at the SPA, it was one of the most memorable days of my life. The Executive Director of SPA gave me a warm welcome and introduced me to the team. Immediately after receiving induction and orientation, I was asked to take part in a research project where we had to collect data by conducting interviews asking the public for their opinion on an issue, which is becoming a national problem – the use of the TABOO substance among youth including high school students. My colleagues were very friendly, helpful, and eager to guide me by providing suggestions and ideas. This instantly made me feel comfortable and at home. I was able to interview different people using guide questions, take notes and write interview notes later. The project gave me firsthand experience in conducting research and gathering primary data.
I was particularly fortunate to receive my internship at SPA for a variety of reasons. First, due to the philosophy of openness at the SPA, I was given unlimited access to ongoing work including organizing SPA forums and was able to gain experience quickly. Secondly, due to the unique nature of the SPA work, I was challenged from day one to write, translate, carry out research, and learn to meet deadlines. This is important for young graduates because of the opportunity it offers to improve their writing skills. Thirdly, because of what the SPA does and the research produced through their work, I started to think critically and at a higher level, grasping content on national and international issues. This experience gave me a taste of the real world.
Recent graduates (including myself) are facing enormous challenges. They are entering a job market more unfavorable than at any other time in recent history. With employers freezing hiring due to the coronavirus pandemic and uncertainties about the future, job opportunities, as well as internship and training opportunities, are getting fewer. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the unemployment rate for youth aged 14 to 29 is 67 percent—one of the highest rates in the world. For young women, the unemployment rate is even higher at 74%.
To tell my own story after graduation, the going was tough. I struggled to land either an internship or a permanent job. Having completed my Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Open University Malaysia in August 2019, I endured difficult months, which were emotionally and psychologically depressing. The pressure to find a job was too much and making many applications to no avail was especially painful for me.
The internship at the SPA opened up a new path for me, a path that instilled confidence in my abilities. During my three-month internship, I had first-hand experience and a great amount of exposure to various projects going on at the SPA. My internship at the SPA has been very positive and has given me new insight as I learned something new every day. I also polished up some important personal skills. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was about the roles and responsibilities of a researcher. The internship also provided me an opportunity to gain soft skills critical for my future career including teamwork, problem-solving, work ethic, adaptability, communication, responsibility, and time management.
My overall experience has been wonderful, and I am truly grateful to have been able to work with such an incredibly forward-thinking, proactive and youthful team. I commend SPA team’s hard work and professionalism.
After the internship, I was upgraded and given another three months contract to work in the Human Resources department of SPA. This is a great opportunity for me. I am looking forward to working with SPA and contributing to its HR department. It is a great place to work, but also a place where I can add value to my community and country at large.