Monday, August 6, 2012

From career change to an Olympic internship

This week Jenni Rishworth, MSc Sport Event Management Student talks about her passion, event management, and how with lots of determination she is now internship at the biggest sporting event of the year.. you guessed it the Olympics. 

So this summer I am doing an internship at the London 2012 Olympics – I still can’t quite believe it! About three years ago whilst studying for a psychology degree at Warwick University I fell in love with events and event management. I realised that, whilst I loved psychology, I didn’t have the passion and excitement for it that I felt when organising and participating in events at university. And yes -I admit it - my dream of working the psychologist’s lifestyle portrayed in CSI seemed somewhat unlikely! I had a new ambition – I wanted to be a part of the 2012 Olympics.

Once I’d persuaded my parents that events management was a legitimate degree and I wasn’t just clinging onto the uni lifestyle, I applied for an MSc in sports events management at Leeds Metropolitan University. When I was lucky enough to be offered a place I decided that this year was my opportunity, not only to further my education, but to grab each and every opportunity that I could get my hands on or that Leeds Met could give me and run with it. The events industry is so competitive at the moment that experience and the ability to learn from experiences is key but I am prepared to start at the bottom being an assistant, runner, cleaner – whatever it takes! I think managers like to see that you know what it takes to put on an event and are prepared to put in the long, antisocial hours in seemingly thankless tasks to get where you want to be.

I spent my masters year building on my experience through an internship in sport participation at Carnegie Sport and volunteering for just about anything going from being a volunteer manager at the Sport Relief Mile to collating research for the RFL at Old Trafford. So when Leeds Met advertised an internship programme at the London 2012 Olympics I jumped at the chance. I eagerly filled my application with my recent experiences and tried to put across my passion and determination to achieve a career in sports events. I couldn’t believe it when I was offered the position and before I could even come to terms with it, 50 Leeds Met students were squashed onto a coach heading for London with three months worth of luggage - EACH!

We are working for a company called Incognitus and they have set us up in a, less than glamorous, Portakabin camp just outside the Olympic Park in Stratford (the events industry is not all 5* VIP rooms and corporate suites!). We are all working under different job titles but are basically assisting venue managers. There are 28 venues in the Olympics plus two athlete villages, media suites etc – each one boasting an entirely different experience and array of challenges for us. I am lucky to be working at Greenwich Park – the home of the equestrian events. Being such a large park (183 acres), and having to accommodate horses as well as people, the sheer scale of the task at hand is overwhelming! I am enjoying watching how such a large project is put together and how managers are working closely with construction workers, cleaners, vets, officials, the media and many more teams to enable the event to run smoothly. I am getting hands on learning in venue management, HR, admin work and the once in a lifetime opportunity to see the biggest event on the planet – from the ‘inside’ – it is fantastic!  Leeds Met have also given us the opportunity to complete an Institute of Leadership and Management qualification which consolidates what we are learning on the job within management theory and allows us to reflect upon and learn about our own management skills and how we can use this experience to its full potential in future applications or jobs. Plus, and perhaps most importantly in such a competitive industry, we have the opportunity to meet hundreds of top contacts in events which is exciting/nerve-racking – you never know who you might meet in the dinner queue or sit in a meeting with and what opportunities they could give you. I suppose an internship is basically a three month interview!

My advice for anyone considering a change of career direction is to go for it! Research your options carefully but be determined and passionate to achieve your goals. If you are thinking of events, experience is key and don’t be afraid to start at the bottom – if you work hard enough and are prepared to go over and above what is asked or expected to show how determined you are – I am hoping that the only way is up!

If you would like to see what we are up to in London please follow us on Twitter @2012Intern or our blog at