July 24, 2020, by Matthew Lumley

How I developed with the Advantage Award during a pandemic

By Sameer Masurkar, MSc Human Factors and Ergonomics, Postgraduate 

I really wanted to complete the Nottingham Advantage Award. However, it was difficult to fit it in around my Masters course. Then came a global pandemic that added to the challenge. In the end, I achieved my goal and here is how I did it. 

I decided not to complete work experience in the traditional manner. At this time, the Nottingham Advantage Award team created the COVID19 Student Volunteers module and I found a volunteering opportunity through 7 cups.  

I was experiencing anxiety and I wanted to help others going through the same difficulties. A quick online search about active listening led to the discovery of 7 cups.    

What is 7 Cups

The organisation provides online therapy, free support and active listening to people experiencing emotional distress. It connects them with licensed paid therapists and volunteers known as listeners. This allows them to have an anonymous and confidential chat.  

Applying to become an active listener was an easy process. I created a Listener account and completed some initial training. 

How I helped others

There was someone on 7 cups who had been doubting themselves and had built up a negative outlook on life. I provided them with books and videos that helped me form a positive outlook. A week later they contacted me to say that it was very helpful. 

The positive ratings and reviews I received showed that people were happy with my support and listening. I believe the 7 cups community got a good and helpful listener because of my volunteering. 

How it helped me

Through the role and the volunteer module, I reduced the effects of the pandemic on people’s mental health. The fact that I could contribute in a meaningful way filled me with positivity and opened my eyes to all kinds of possibilities. 

I developed my empathy, listening and communication skills, commercial awareness, time management and personal growth.  These transferrable skills will be immensely useful in my professional life. I have also learned to be grateful and give equal importance to my mental wellbeing. 

By participating in the Advantage AwardI realised I enjoyed reflective writing because it gave me an inspiring perspective about my work. It has also enhanced my self-awareness and confidence. I was able to make mistakes, learn from them and solve problems in real workplace-based scenarios

In the Opensource Assistive Devices module – OPAD, I worked with mechanical engineers to design a cutlery holder for people with grip issues. Through the Nottingham Consultancy Challenge, I gained insights into a new field and developed useful career skills. As a practical learner, these experiences have been immensely valuable. 

What next for me

I know I want a career in Human Factorsbut I am still figuring out what I specifically want to do. For those who do not know, Human Factors – Ergonomics – studies humans to design products, processes and systems that are better suited for us. I am particularly interested in Cognitive Ergonomics which applies Cognitive Psychology to Systems Engineering. Completing the Nottingham Advantage Award allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and explore my options. 

My advice to you

Jobs may be quite hard to find, especially in the current circumstances. However, it is still important to reflect and find your passionThe Award modules require you to reflect on your experiences and highlight your strengths and weaknesses. This helps you gain a better understanding of what you want in life. These modules can also count as work experience or volunteering which is amazing.  

In conclusion, the majority may seem to take a particular road to success, but that does not mean that path is necessarily right for you. There are many optionleft even if one opportunity slips away. Everyone is different, so I would say find your passion, go after that and everything else should fall into place. 

Browse our Nottingham Advantage Award modules to find out more about any of the modules mentioned and others we offer. 

Autumn term and full-year applications open 31 August and spring term on 1 November.

You can keep up-to-date on the Nottingham Advantage Award via social media, so please like and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. 

Want to speak to one of the Award team then please contact us at nottingham-advantage-award@nottingham.ac.uk

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