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Beyond mentoring: Getting involved in access and outreach initiatives as an undergraduate

Over the Christmas holiday, I was fortunate enough to undertake a winter internship with Insight Outreach. Initially I was worried that I wouldn’t be the most useful person for the organisation, as I wouldn’t consider myself to be natural ‘mentor material’ (as in I often don’t know what I’m doing!) 

However, I realised early on that there’s far more to access and outreach than mentoring and tutoring! If you don’t feel confident in with that sort of work, there are still plenty of other ways to get involved. For instance, I worked on creating fundraising materials, looking into potential grant partnerships, reaching out to schools and creating research documents – a wide array of fun tasks which opened my eyes to the day to day work of a charity. 

Furthermore, I was able to draw on my experiences as an intern for Insight Outreach when I was recruited to get involved with a new initiative by Oxford students called InFuse. InFuse is a new project which aims to run a week long programme for state educated sixth form students who have the potential to apply to Oxbridge, targeting the same students who get involved with Insight Outreach. What started as an idea by a fresher has now become a serious operation with a team of like minded students, and just the other day we were able to secure the Rt. Hon David Miliband as our keynote speaker for the week. It’s amazing what you can achieve if you have a vision which is coupled with drive and passion!

In my interview with the founder, Dylan, it became very clear that the skills I had developed from my internship with Insight Outreach would be super transferable. Now my week to week tasks include meeting with potential organisations to collaborate with, doing focus group work with sixth form students, writing up documents for funding, and the freedom to pretty much pursue any leads which I think will help to expand the reach of InFuse. It’s not a million miles away from what I was doing during my internship, except now I’m part of a long term project which I am helping to build from the ground up.

In addition to my developed skillset, my experiences also show that I am passionate about making change. On a personal level, getting involved with a cause which I am passionate about has been thoroughly fulfilling. It’s also a fun project to be getting on in your spare time between university course work. Access and outreach work makes you really engage with the importance of education and having a love of learning, which is never a bad thing to be reminded of when your degree is getting a bit too stressful!

Whether it be working for charities, NGOs, nonprofits, or social enterprises, I now have the confidence to pursue a career which tangibly causes a change for good. 

Personally, I find this much more appealing than taking a route into the standard corporate world. That being said, if you are interested in entering the corporate sector, these skills of project management, development, fundraising and professional networking will surely put you in good stead for future endeavours.

Here are just a few takeaway points I have learned after undertaking work experience with Insight Outreach (and from what I went on to do afterwards): 

  • Talk to whoever you’re doing work experience with to develop your interests and skills. For instance, I recently undertook an internship with a charity which focuses on alleviating poverty. Although I was researching the organisation’s history, I spoke to them about my interest in looking into policy development, fundraising and local archives and as a result was able to network and get some insights.
  • Use what you have learned for your own endeavours. From my time with Insight Outreach, I had the confidence to get involved with this new project, InFuse as I had an awareness of the landscape.
  • Consider what you want to get out of a career. Think about what your aims, beliefs and values are, and the nature of the work you want to do. By being exposed to the variety of roles there are in the charity sector, I was inspired to look into the possibility of a fulfilling career in this sector. 
  • Think about what talents you already have, and how they can help you with your endeavours. For instance, from first hand experience I know that I’m not the best mentor in the world, but I do enjoy student journalism and writing articles. I co-founded a magazine for working class students at university, and this helped me stand out to interviewers when it came to applying for work experience. It demonstrated that I could write, create content and edit a piece for an audience, and these skills are helpful for communications and PR for a variety of different organisations. After all, it’s why I’m writing this (hopefully helpful!) blog post now. Furthermore, from doing event planning for university societies, I was able to get a role on the workshops and outreach team for the Meridian magazine, where I work on putting together panels of media industry professionals for aspiring young journalists.
  • Don’t be afraid to network! Coming into university, the word ‘network’ would make me cringe so much. In my head I had visions of people awkwardly standing around and making small talk before exchanging business cards. It was only when I got involved with Insight Outreach and undertook the Udamon course of personal and professional development did I tentatively plunge into the world of ‘networking’. It isn’t that awkward really, and I was encouraged to do easy things such set up a Linkedin account which showcases my work experience, helps me find suitable opportunities and connect with people.

If you’re interested in learning more about getting involved with Insight Outreach or InFuse, why not check out their websites here:



About the author:

Jade Calder: Content Marketing Volunteer, Insight Outreach

Jade is a History student at St Peter’s College, Oxford. Following on from her experience of applying to university from a state sixth form in Manchester, she is keen to support the kind of access initiatives which she herself benefitted immensely from during her A Levels.