Jamie Hanna from Belfast Metropolitan College is our 2018 Leidos Student of the Year for N.Ireland. Here, he shares how Phil - his mentor - and an internship at Santander has changed his life.
At the start of the programme, I would describe myself as anxious, unknowing and empty. I was a completely different person. My mental health was poor and I was diagnosed with depression. Two years on, I'm a much better person now. I've received university offers, including from Queen's University Belfast, and I've been discharged from my mental health programme.
My mentor Phil was the driving force behind my change. He really did believe in me. I respected him and I didn’t want to let him down. Phil broke down goals into steps. He said he wanted to lose weight and I wanted to lose weight too. In the first two weeks, I lost a stone and I’ve lost four stone now. He helped me realise that good physical health links to good mental health. He made me brave enough to stand up and fight the stigma.
My Santander internship was also a big turning point for me. I worked in the personal banking department, dealing face to face with the general public and seeing service from a customer perspective. It really suited me. I got a part-time job at a Spa supermarket and worked 40 hours at the bank and 24 hours in Spa. I became completely self-funding and independent – I’ve even bought my own car.
A key thing I learnt during my internship was how to take initiative in my work. Because my supervisor was part-time, and she could not always be there, I had to learn to be proactive and ensure that I was being productive.
I think that the way I grew during my internships really illustrates the importance of experiencing professional environments for young people - it gives you a taste of what the real world of work is like and the opportunity to develop key skills. Employers are looking for work experience and skills, just as much as academic grades, so being part of Career Ready gives you a great comparative advantage when you’re looking for work.
As well as helping me, I think my internship was also beneficial to Santander and Emma, my supervisor. I think that she learnt that it’s important for big companies to engage with younger people. This is because we can offer different ideas, as well as a different outlook on how to complete certain tasks. I was shown this by my supervisor’s enthusiasm to help me apply for a job at Santander.
Jamie was enthusiastic and took initiative, he completed all assigned tasks in a timely manner and always sought feedback from me on how he did.
Emma Barr | Internship supervisor
Getting involved with Career Ready is something which I’d recommend to any student who’s starting to think about their future. Career Ready is all about real-world stuff. It gives you real-life experiences. I’ve increased my networks and contacts. I’ve got myself a new job and I’ve even opened an ISA.