Doc Seidman Says….
………Internships can an important step in launching your career. My colleague, Lucy Capul, has some advice on maximizing the internship experience.
Internship. According to Merriam-Webster, it is “a period of undergoing practical instruction in one’s job or career.” A lot of people are opposed to internships as many are unpaid or feel they are waste of time. Many would prefer to get entry level jobs to get “a foot in the door.” A lot of people think an internship is just a position to make coffee for the office. One will ask, “How do coffee runs benefit my career?”
Some colleges have incorporated internships into their curriculum as a graduation requirement. In order to graduate, students must undergo an internship based on their industry. This might even include having to give a presentation at the end of their experience.
For many of you who are in the beginning stages of your college degree, or even near the end, I am sure you have stumbled upon the word “Internship” from conversations with your adviser, browsing your curriculum, or hearing about it in career fairs. Many neglect to prepare for this experience and just pick any internship so they can graduate on time. An internship is an important stepping stone in your career. Paid or unpaid. Making coffee or not, it is essential to get that experience.
When I was in college, my university required an internship to graduate. In looking back upon my career, I always tell this to every young individual I meet: I would not be who I am if it was not for my internship. At that time, I had no real-world work experience. I was only working on campus at the tutoring center but had no prior experience of working in a corporate environment, going into interviews, and how to even prepare for one. I had three interviews set up for me in three different companies. At the end, I got all three and had to choose one by the end of the day. I had to work with my adviser on what to pick as I felt pressured to give an answer without even having time to process that I got all three internship opportunities. Which company and program would be the best for me?
I did not have a car at the time so I had to pick the one that was closest for me to travel conveniently to and from my internship. I also loved how flexible the company was with my work schedule as I had class in the middle of the week. I was happy I had my adviser help me pick the right one. In the long run, I got the best internship I could ever ask for. The company had a huge internship program and was skilled in placing interns in programs that will help them grow in their career. At the beginning of the internship, I had to sit down with human resources to discuss my interests and which department would be best for me. I was placed in the sales and marketing department. At first, my mind went “huh?”. What am I going to do in sales and marketing? I hated accounting and math in general. I told them I wanted to do event management. What was I doing here?
During my time there, I worked under the sales manager who oversaw the groups and events for the company. Little did I know that she would be my mentor, and now my friend. I learned so much in my time there. She took me to all her sales meetings and taught me all the ins and outs. She taught me how to set up a show room, how to interact with each client, how to do manage the sales and event systems, and how to answer the phone and take messages. I learned how to talk in that environment, how to dress and how to work with all different types of people. Although my internship did not consist of making coffee daily, I still was doing a lot of the “dirty” work and learned from the ground up. She was such a great mentor and I felt inspired every day to do my best. Every day, I was so happy to be there. I would come home and share stories with my classmates and dorm mates about my experiences. We were all just excited as this was our stepping stone out of college. I treated my internship like it was a paid job. I respected my job, my mentor, the company, I fell in love with that company.
There was a mandatory company staff meeting one week and they even had an orientation for new hires and interns. During these meetings, the general manager would make a presentation highlighting the mission and vision of the company. He had encouraged all of us to feel EMPOWERED. Just because we are interns or have an entry level position, he encouraged us to take initiative to do what is right. If a client or guest was not feeling well, he told us to take the initiative to send a complimentary bowl of chicken noodle soup to the room. If it was someone’s birthday, take the initiative to send a slice of cake or a birthday greeting. There are many companies who like to micromanage every single task an employee is doing. The general manager made an impression in all of us, that we all have the power to make a difference. Besides the warm bite-sized pretzels they served at all the meetings, that presentation will always stand out. I learned so much from that company. I was inspired to take initiative in my internship program, in my travel abroad program as I grew into my career. From that experience, I was offered an entry level position in a different department. They even invited me back to interview for a new position, even after I left the company.
Because of that unpaid internship that I had for three months, I could set the foundation for my career and my professional goals. It also molded me into the worker that I am today. I always look for an environment that allows me to be empowered in my role. I even am empowered in my own life to make risky decisions like moving to New York city solo the past year. I made lifelong friends, lessons and most importantly it molded me into the person I am today.
Because the internship was unpaid, many of the interns struggled to find the motivation to come to “work” every single day. There was no incentive or a paycheck at the end of the week to look forward to. But I found myself looking forward to coming in every single day. Because of this, I knew that I loved what I was doing and that I was in the right industry. I worked because I was passionate about it and inspired every single day by my work, my mentor and the company.
If I never had that internship and only had my first entry level position out of college, I honestly do not think I would be the person I am today. It would have either take me longer to get to where I am or I would just not have the same vision I have for my own career path. I would not be an empowered employee as I am today. I would not take pride in my work, find ways to be inspired or even feel motivated by my purpose.
So, to those of you who are pondering if you should do an internship, the answer is yes. There should be no self-doubt. Work with your adviser in picking the right program, the right company and program. Explore the company’s mission and vision and take advantage of the opportunities the company offers. Look for companies or programs where there is chance for growth. Select a company that you feel proud to be at, even if it means making coffee for the CEO. That CEO could be your next mentor and the person who sees the fire in you who can teach you how to grow into the best that you can be. Even if it is unpaid, and maybe you needed extra cash to save for a spring break trip with your friends, consider the lifelong benefits you receive when working without a monetary incentive. Not only is it a humbling experience, it would be the ultimate challenge for you to know if you are in the right industry and for you to find ways to be motivated. This is a way for you to test if your passion meets your purpose.
It’s 9 am. Coffee. Cream and Sugar?
Lucy is the social media coordinator and career adviser for Affordable College Prep. She blogs about the challenges recent college graduates face during the job search process. You can follow her blog, Nine A.M., Coffee, Tea. or Snooze on Wix. Look for her book on career development tips in late spring/early summer.