Studenteer is a student-run start-up that pairs students and recent graduates with volunteering positions that enable them to gain experience and boost their employability, whilst simultaneously benefitting communities across the UK. The non-profit is run exclusively by students and recent graduates and offers a mentoring scheme alongside many of their placements.
The idea for the company was born out of frustration with the lack of internships and graduate placements that were unable to progress due to the COVID pandemic. Many students who had secured opportunities, were disheartened to see those plans ruined. The placements offered by Studenteer would not only allow them to gain experience but help others. In partnership with Furlonteer, a company that focuses on offering volunteering opportunities for furloughed individuals, Studenteer was created.
Brig Newspaper had the pleasure of talking to Studenteer’s Managing Director, Hollie Smith, Head of Marketing, Emily Cross, and a member of the PR team, Anna-Karina Yuill.
Hollie Smith, Studenteer’s managing director, heard about the role through Rebecca Moy, Studenteer’s co-founder. After some conversation, Rebecca persuaded Hollie to sign up to see how she could get involved in the company. And before she knew it, Hollie was working her way up the ranks to eventually become Managing Director. Emily joined the team that same week, and according to Hollie, “It’s been a rollercoaster!”
A more recent addition to the team, Anna-Karina heard about it from a friend who had been placed on a Studenteer placement. After watching a webinar that described the company, she was sold. “There just happened to be a spot,” and she decided to go for it, successfully applying for and securing a place on the PR team. It just so happened that in her first week, a Zoom quiz allowed her to better get to know her colleagues. Anna-Karina has loved being able to interact with so many new people, stating that her role had really boosted her confidence. Whilst, she had previously had a two-week work placement elsewhere, she didn’t feel as though she had had enough time to really develop her skill set, something she feels her time at Studenteer has allowed her to do.
The beauty of the scheme is that you could end up working in an area that is completely unrelated to your degree. A creative writing student, Hollie went from “only knowing about poetry and different ways of writing prose, to creating a brand,” something that she is incredibly proud of.
Additionally, for those who do want more experience in a specific field, Studenteer offers a wide array of opportunities. For Emily, a marketing student, her role as head of marketing has allowed her to put her theoretical knowledge into practice.
Emily spoke of one studenteer in particular: “We had a girl who volunteered with Anxiety UK who was a psychology student. She was doing a module in anxiety and depression, and she volunteered on a helpline, so was able to get directly speak with clients who were struggling. And she said, that the experience of going from learning about something in the day, to practically applying it in the evening, as well as drastically improving her learning and experience… the amount of people that benefitted from that; herself, the charity, the clients, is just completely unique. I don’t think that anywhere else really offers that.”
Volunteering shows that you seize every opportunity to gain experience, allows employers to gauge what you are passionate about and highlights that you care. And if that wasn’t enough, Emily stated that “an employer is 80% more likely to offer somebody a job if they have voluntary experience, compared to someone who doesn’t.” And as Anna-Karina says, “it’s nice to have the opportunity to do something remotely that could also benefit your career in the future.”
When it comes down to how you go about looking for a volunteering option, Studenteer stands apart from other groups, in that it tailors each placement to every individual. Holly said that “the process of matching a student to a placement is so personalised. What the student studies is a very small amount of the matching process, we also look into their interests, their hobbies, what they want to gain experience in. Even if they studied maths, but they really want experience in marketing, it doesn’t matter that they are studying maths and they’ve never done anything to do with marketing before. We will find something for them because we want them to get as much out of it as the small business, or the charity, or the good cause, gets out of them.”
Being student-led and run comes with its challenges, but the team at Studenteer has learnt a lot in their time with the company. Hollie admitted that “it’s a huge responsibility to not only have a company on your shoulders; but a team of people,” and yet she feels like she has grown so much in recent months, really honing her people management and teamwork skills.
As head of marketing, Emily has faced numerous difficulties, but as a result, has developed key skills that will help her in any future endeavours. She said that she learnt the importance of “adaptability and learning to react to change and make the most of every situation. With marketing specifically, you’ve got a plan in mind, but that’s always going to change. It depends on who you’re trying to target!” Anna-Karina spoke of her lack of confidence and struggle with organisation skills but stated that both had “improved so much” since joining the company.
Though the company doesn’t boast experienced professionals, the team insists that there are some key advantages to this. As Emily said, “We are the target market; we are the people that we are trying to offer opportunities to. I think that aspect works when we are thinking about how we are going to present opportunities. I think ‘well, what would help me?’ I know what’s helpful! That relatable aspect gives me a direct insight into how we can improve our services.” With Anna-Karina adding that, “we can put ourselves in their shoes. We understand that it’s difficult to get experience. We understand the people that we hope will benefit from us.”
Certainly, market research isn’t so difficult to achieve when you are the demographic itself!
The student-led aspect of the company also benefits its internal team. Hollie spoke of the importance of recognising that this is very much a learning curve for everyone, saying “I think because we are all learning day by day, and we acknowledge we aren’t experienced, we have this understanding of each other that helps massively. Someone might make a mistake, but they’ve never done that before so of course, they might make a mistake, we’ve probably made a mistake in the same way. It really helps that we all understand that.”
If you are struggling to gain experience in a time where COVID restrictions are limiting your options, Studenteer may just offer the perfect solution. They work with a number of organisations including UN Women, Birthlight and the National Arts Fundraising School, just to name a few. What better way to improve your own skills and help somebody else in the meantime?
What type of people is Studenteer looking for?
Hollie: “When it comes to volunteering with the charities, we just want somebody who is willing to volunteer their time. We will find you a match. Internally, we are looking for people who are genuinely interested in what we do. We want passion, dedication and the willingness to try.”
Emily: “Confident and positive to people who want to commit their time to making a positive difference. And who are also ambitious within themselves and want to improve their own skillset.”
Anna-Karina: “Whoever you are, how ever experienced, this is for everyone. This is such a good stepping zone. There are even some positions that are only 3 hours a week that you would have to give.”
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Feature image credit: Studenteer