by guest blogger and Infinite Direct account executive, Sandy Schoener Follow @sandra_schoener
With the changing of seasons comes the un-doubtable anticipation of graduation, and the time for college students to start thinking about their ‘future’. While graduation is a long awaited triumph in most students’ careers, there is always the overwhelming anxiety of what to do next. The most logical way to transition post graduation into the job market means an internship, right? It is the most reputable way to ease the way into the work force, without fully committing. But before taking that step into an internship, there are a few things to be taken into consideration. Why not ask yourself, what can this internship REALLY do for ME? Is this ‘experience’ going to make me realize my full potential? Is this going to prepare me for what’s next?
Having been a college student myself, I turned towards an internship as a way to acquire college credits to meet my degree requirements. My initial intent was to gain a ‘real-life’ experience in Graphic Design, as that was the field I was studying. What I soon came to realize was that my search was extremely limited, and what was once a search for experience, soon became a search for anything that would meet my requirements for credits. What I never thought to ask myself was, what am I really looking for? What kind of experience do I want? I ended up ‘landing’ an internship in my field, however I spent hours doing all the basic work I learned some of my entry level classes, and ultimately ruining my drive to continue along that line of course work. After changing majors, then changing back. I realized I needed to figure out my strengths, and throw myself into a position that will push me to do things I had never experienced.
I decided after college that I needed to take a leap and try my hand in the sales and marketing world, I was a people person so I figured ‘Why not?!’. I accepted a position at Infinite Direct and I began to love the ability to learn the fundamentals of running a successful business, while using my creative and visual tactics to teach people and help them evolve as well.
The reason I am going along on this rant is because after about six months of being in the business world, I had the amazing opportunity to have an intern of my own. Sherry is a current Public Relations Major at Rowan University, and is now finishing her senior year. When I first interviewed her, she was approaching the summer after her junior year and was looking for something that she could add to her resume. It was recommended to her that an internship was the way to go, so, there she was. I was excited to be able to show her the ropes and teach her things, but I didn’t realize at that point how much SHE would actually teach me.
Learning how to interact like a professional made me realize what a real job would be like. I had never experienced working that much, and it was a major wake up call.
Our Internship program has a pretty basic layout, much like a Co-Op it is paid with the usual incentives to reach monetary bonuses to pay for books and so-on. However, the office standards do NOT vary for an entry-level Intern to a regular entry-level position. We have everyone start in our Management Training Program at the same point and work their way up just like they would in their actual career. Whether or not Sherry realized it, she was about to take an adventure into the real world for the summer. As much as I would have entertained the idea of her grabbing me coffee every morning and doing all the work I didn’t want to do, it was much more rewarding watching her grow into a passionate and career oriented individual.
Seeing as I had been in her shoes before, I decided I wanted to document Sherry’s experiences as she went through our Management Training Program.
I won’t bore you with all the logistical questions and answers, but her first response to some Pros and Cons of her experience was, “Party hard your senior year!”, but then she elaborated with, “Learning how to interact like a professional made me realize what a real job would be like. I had never experienced working that much, and it was a major wake up call.” She expressed that she was pushed beyond what she thought she was capable of, and with the support of her new co-workers she was able to achieve a lot more than she had anticipated.
Fundamentals like professional presentations, communication, training, and interviewing are a few of things she experienced; but what I found most interesting was that she felt she learned most through being pushed to her limits of work ethic and personal goals, “I hold myself to a higher standard now that I know my strengths and weaknesses. I was able to find more of my strengths than anything, and now have higher goals because of it.” What’s interesting about graduating is that there is always the common denominator of wanting to be successful, but at what point do we ask ourselves what is it going to take to get us there?
Throughout her internship I was also able to bring Sherry with a few of us in the office to a conference in Orlando, Florida. Where most Interns would be excited about the idea of being in Florida, she said that what excited her most about being there was the ability to witness and meet the people that actually cared about her future, “They had been in my position and were able to do it themselves, that really meant a lot for me to see that.”
The definition of ‘experience’ in summary is the process of doing and seeing things, and of having things happen to you. It is a skill or knowledge that you get by doing something. Yes, any basic internship would have built Sherry’s resume on paper, however her ability to be pushed outside of her comfort zone and into a career role was something much more beneficial.
My suggestion to anyone currently searching for an internship is if experience is something you are looking for, be sure to question yourself as to what the internship will do for YOU. If your future success is something you are willing to commit to, then why not start now.