To Intern, or Not to Intern, That Was the Question

by Sophia Mastropaolo, Marketing and Communications Intern, National Safe Place Network

One month to summer break, I didn’t have an internship or summer job lined up. One week to summer break, I still didn’t have an internship or job. It wasn’t until almost two weeks of summer break had passed that I managed to secure something to do for the summer, a position as a Marketing and Communications Intern with National Safe Place Network.

I knew I was going to get restless doing nothing of substance for the entire summer. This was my biggest motivator to get an internship. However, knowing me, I’m not always quick to push myself. This was my biggest motivator to not get an internship. I was in a limbo with where I would apply to internships I didn’t entirely want, get an interview with them, and it would end up going nowhere. On the inverse, I would apply to internships I could see myself in, only to never hear back on my inquiry.

I decided maybe it would be okay if I didn’t get an internship just yet. I can’t get credit for one until next summer anyway, so this would entirely be for my own personal benefit. But, maybe I could get a job somewhere and help out my bank account for the upcoming semester. Unfortunately, it seemed not many places had part-time job listings online.

I quickly grew tired of scrolling through my Google search of “Communications Internships summer 2019” and “part-time seasonal worker,” eventually getting comfortable in the idea that maybe I’ll just take this summer off and focus on developing hobbies. I’d been watching a lot of cooking videos on YouTube and thought maybe this could be the summer I become a gourmet chef.

As I sat in the idea that I wouldn’t really be doing anything to benefit my career or my bank account this summer, I talked to my friends about their plans for the summer. One would be interning with a refugee ministries organization and helping people prepare for their upcoming citizenship test. Another would be interning with a health and fitness company, creating content for them while also shadowing at the local news station. I quickly realized A) all my friends would be busy (and thus I would be lounging around my house alone) and B) I would be the only one not making moves to gain any kind of experience for my future. Point B isn’t to say I was jealous or needed to compete with them, but it did open my eyes to the fact that I’m not at the place in my life where I should be taking summers off when I really could be working in some capacity.

Upon my realization in the midst of finals week, I decided enough was enough. I was allowing myself to miss out on opportunities because I wanted something new and challenging without it actually being new or challenging. I’d find flaws with different opportunities in one way or another. I’d convince myself that this internship seems good, but it’s more technical than it is creative or that one’s listing just wasn’t exciting enough.

Fundamentally, I was what was holding myself back from pushing myself and bettering my own future. I was the biggest reason I didn’t have an internship waiting for me at the start of summer. It was at this time that I found the National Safe Place Network listing on a job search website.

The listing was everything I wanted to do and everything I knew I could do, even if it took some learning. I quickly applied, deciding I won’t let this be another opportunity I let slip through my fingers. Given that the timing was during a hectic time in the semester (library sessions, exams, moving, all the wonderful things that come with the end of a school year), I knew it was beginning to slip through. I had pre-interview questions that were sitting in my inbox for days, waiting for a response. Once I finished my last exam and was back home with my parents (who, by the way, did not let me forget my search for an internship now that I was with them 24/7), I sat down and sent my responses, apologizing for the delay, expecting for them to have already filled the position, and excitingly accepting the offer for an interview that came in the next days. The rest is history!

This was the first time I truly pushed myself to go out of my comfort zone, and I’m so thankful I finally did. From the start, the entire staff quickly welcomed me as part of the team, making sure I had what I need, and that I would benefit from this internship the most I could. Coming into a small staff can be intimidating, like being inducted into a close-knit group of friends, but my supervisor, Autumn, made sure I knew NSPN was a family of sorts that I was now part of.

I began to dip my toes into different things, all while understanding the way businesses and organizations operate. If Autumn asked me to take a stab at something that I had previously only done once or twice, I felt no fear in saying yes. She made sure I knew it was okay if I got stuck, as long as I was trying, and I was learning something. In addition, it was made clear to me that if there was anything I wanted to do, all I had to do was ask and they’d give me the tools. Autumn and the rest of NSPN have encouraged my growth here in the best way they possibly could have. I’ve taken part in writing blog posts, sample social media posts, and sample press releases; aiding in the creation of the organization’s marketing deck; content creation for national conference; and sitting in on team meetings. These experiences have created the foundation of my understanding of how the (nonprofit) business world works; before now, it was only an idea of what I thought it to be based on what I learned in my classes.

This internship has given me the opportunity to push myself in a way that I haven’t before, gaining experience and shaping my understanding of the kind of industry I want to step into in the future. Before this internship, the best thing on my resume related to strategic communications was “relevant coursework”. Now, I have true workplace experiences that have helped me grow as a future employee and as a student. I have taken a step to better myself and my future opportunities and it has truly already paid off. I’m so thankful to have such a pleasant experience at my very first internship, leaving me with no bad feelings about my decision in my career; I’m left only with excitement to continue my studies and working towards my future.

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