Jumping into the workforce is a topic that tends to generate a copious amount of anxiety and stress for high school or college grads. We’ve functioned for so long in the structured environment of education where our success is easily measured by grading scales, GPAs, and test scores. We understand how to study appropriately to get a good grade on the test to demonstrate knowledge about a skill or topic, but rarely do we have any idea where our skills lie. Sure, we may have interests in a specific field, hobbies we wish to pursue, or a degree saying we’re competent in certain skill sets; but how are we going to measure up against everyone else looking for jobs? Are we good enough to actually provide value? How do we demonstrate our worth when companies are more interested in someone with years of experience than someone with a fresh degree?
I struggled with these same questions for months before graduating from college this past May (2022). I would soon receive a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and step out into a job market full of opportunity. Professors constantly mentioned how lucky my fellow classmates and I were to be entering the workforce during an era when employment needs and job opportunities are skyrocketing. While I did see the benefit of entering a market where jobs were everywhere, the pressure to perform was a heavy weight on my shoulders. The overarching concern was the possibility of not getting a job offer, let alone a job offer in an industry I was interested in. This is a decision that my life literally depended on. The overwhelming pressure to make the “right” decision among all of the options available was rather crippling. Then, I discovered the concept of internships!
Why are internships so valuable?
Internships are these beautiful little nuggets of time where you get to learn how a company works, watch how they interact both internally and externally, and get a real-world taste of working for a company. The expectation for perfect performance right off the bat is removed and interns are able to explore topics to determine where their skills or interests may generate value. Rarely are interns coming in with a pool of knowledge, fully able to lead the team with vigor and brilliant direction. Instead they are there to support the team, ask all the questions, and glean as much from the experience as they can. For this very reason, I feel that internships are invaluable! The opportunity to learn while simultaneously adding experience to your resume is a fabulous mix for young grads. It’s an even better combo if you can find an opportunity that helps you accomplish your goals!
My goal for a career was focused around interacting with coworkers and clients regularly, maximizing productivity and organization, and continuing to learn more about how the businesses around me function. Even as a young child I loved learning how different companies operated and how they determined what the future was going to look like for them in terms of policy changes, project work, and employee growth. So, when the opportunity to work for VOLTAGE as a Project Management Intern came up, it very quickly became evident that this would be a good place to grow and learn more about my own skill set.
Are remote internships still beneficial?
Now, with that being said, internships are really only as beneficial as you make them. If you come into the process engaged and ready to ask questions, make mistakes, and stretch your skill set, my theory is that you will learn a lot and grow in ways you never thought you could. Being open, honest, and vulnerable to change is the best way to glean the most from an internship experience.
This has proved to be rather challenging as remote work is becoming more popular. The human, one-on-one connections and the experience of working collaboratively in the office has been removed for most internship positions. While this can be a hindrance to some aspects of learning and gaining a sense for the company culture, I think it pushes the intern to be more self-motivated and more assertive with their time. You have to be willing to send the email or Slack notification asking the question that seems silly or like common knowledge to the rest of the team. You have to interject yourself into situations and actively seek out opportunities to try new things.
What has my experience been like?
My first month at VOLTAGE has been incredible to say the least. This experience has allowed me to get my feet wet in the fields of digital marketing, design, and project management all while unlocking a passion for creativity. The team here is full of people who are open for any question and excited to watch each other grow and be successful. I’ve been able to join full team meetings where I see how the team dynamic operates and learn who is the go-to person for each element of a project. Participating in client meetings, creating project budgets, and writing articles are some of the other tasks I’ve been assigned that have helped to stretch my confidence and increase my skill set. I have learned many valuable lessons over the course of the last month, but there are a few key lessons that I think will benefit me throughout my career.
Top lessons I’ve learned:
- Be a team player! Help where help is needed.
- Ask questions! You’ll never learn if you don’t ask.
- Join the Zoom meetings and watch how the pros do it. The people you are working for have been in their line of work for a while and have experience that you don’t. Watch how they do their jobs and learn from them. They are pools of knowledge that should be tapped into.
- Try new things! Stretch yourself. Take on that creative project or budgeting assignment. You’ll never know how it suits you until you try it. Really, that’s what an internship is all about!
My recommendation for any fresh grad or student who is looking into their future careers is to look into what sounds interesting. It may sound like a “duh” statement, but very often I think we are pressured to look for positions where we will use skills we are confident we already have or find a career where we will make good money right away. A paycheck will only provide so much motivation, doing something that you love is where the true passion and spark for projects will be discovered. I would look into taking courses in marketing and general business courses to try and learn as much about how the companies around you interact with one another. Coming into an internship with some knowledge and understanding about what the overall goal is will help you to succeed tremendously!
Wrapping it up
While transitioning into full time work can be a very intimidating process, there are solutions that can help you to gain experience and confidence before committing fully to one job position or title. Internships allow people to get a taste of what a specific job role would look like and help them determine if this position would be right for them. Internships have been a real benefit to me and I have already learned so much in the first month that I have been here! I’m excited to see what the future will hold. So if you’re a 20-something reading this looking for an answer on whether that internship will be helpful or the leader of a company looking for ways to reach the newest generation of incoming workers, my answer for you is: pursue the internship! Both parties will learn from each other and will be able to craft a work environment where people are inspired and excited to accomplish their tasks.