Studenteer helps Heather gain experience while looking for a graduate job
Please could you introduce yourself and tell us a little about how you came to hear about Studenteer?
Hi! My name’s Heather Staples and I just graduated with a degree in Psychology from King’s College London. I aspire to build a career in mental health and eventually become a clinical psychologist in the future. I heard about Furlonteer from my flatmate, as both of us had been furloughed from our hospitality jobs at the start of lockdown and were looking for something to do. From the furlonteer website I found out about Studenteer, and I signed up straight away!
What made you want to want to sign up as a Studenteer?
I had just finished my final year exams and graduating into a global recession doesn’t make it easy to get a grad job, so I thought getting some more experience in a relevant field whilst contributing to a worthwhile cause would be a great idea.
I thought it was an amazing opportunity to be connected with projects from all over the UK, because one benefit of remote working is that moving home and living in a tiny little village in the middle of nowhere didn’t geographically limit me when signing up for Studenteer!
Could you tell us a little about the project you’ve been matched with and your role in helping them?
I was matched with Anxiety UK, a mental health charity based in Manchester that offers support and advice for anyone in the UK struggling with anxiety. As a helpline volunteer, I answer phone calls from the Anxiety UK helpline and act as the first point of contact for people who are seeking help for their anxiety. I listen to people’s struggles and offer them various resources and avenues they can explore to access support for their anxiety. I also do online shifts answering emails from people looking for support, as well as working for the live chat service. Anxiety UK and the helpline coordinator, Niamh, have been amazing with me, making sure I had all the training and support I needed to succeed in my role.
What was a typical day like?
Anxiety UK asks for a commitment of 4 hours a week, usually broken down into two 2-hour shifts, as they can be quite intense. I do one shift on the helpline, and one shift with the online services per week. It’s really flexible and I can work around jobhunting and other commitments.
When on the helpline, calls are anonymously directed through to my phone, and I answer any that come through on my shift. I speak to people from across the UK, listen to their problems and assist them in accessing the help that they need. I think it really helps people just to know that there’s an actual person at the end of the phone wanting to listen and support them. I get calls from people in many different situations, but I’m always able to direct them to resources Anxiety UK offers, like therapy services and online self-help guides.
What new skills has this experience given you?
I’ve learnt a lot of new skills in this role. I use a lot of active listening when working on the helpline, validating people’s feelings and letting them know that there are resources out there to help them.
Volunteering has massively increased my confidence. I’ve had to deal with a multitude of different situations that I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do before!
It has also broadened my horizons, as I speak to people across the UK who come from all walks of life, which has made me appreciate even more that mental health issues can affect anyone at any time. It so common and it’s nothing to be ashamed about, the help is out there!
What impact do you feel it’s had on your experience of being a student or graduate during COVID-19, and are you likely to continue volunteering after it ends?
Graduating into the saturated job market on top of a recession means that you need extra experience to stand out from the crowd. From being a Studenteer, I’ve developed a range of new skills that are really crucial to the field I want to go into.
It also feels like I’m doing something really worthwhile, especially during this time. A lot more people have been experiencing anxiety due to COVID-19, and on this project I’m able to offer them support when they need it most. I’m definitely going to keep volunteering for Anxiety UK for the foreseeable future, it’s a great opportunity and they’re an amazing team!
Could you give any advice or tips to other people considering signing up to Studenteer?
Just do it! It doesn’t take much to sign up, and the whole Studenteer team are really friendly and helpful, you can tell they want to help you. It’s a great way to use your free time and make a difference, whilst gaining valuable experience and mentorship. You never know what opportunities await!
Would you recommend Studenteer to a friend who is a Student or Graduate?
Yes, 100%! I’ve already told all my friends about it!