So you're done with another year of college. Congrats! Now you have a whole summer to yourself. I came out of every school year relieved that I was done with finals but just wishing that the next three months would fly by so I could return to my friends and my college life. But, before I got there, I had three crazy-long months to fill up. I figured I would work at my town library or at the local senior center. But the summer before I left for college, things took a different turn than what I had expected: I interned at Bloomberg LP, a major corporation in New York City.
When I got my first internship offer, I suddenly wasn’t so sure I even wanted the job. It was my last summer before college. Did I really want to work instead of hanging out with all of my friends? Did I really want to miss all the beach days? Did I really want to spend every hot summer day commuting into New York City, sitting at a desk for nine hours, attempting to figure out financial or advertising jargon? While that definitely didn’t seem alluring, the other side of the job was: This was a chance to finally do something new. I was so bored in high school. My classes were rarely challenging, my friends, while sweet, offered very little in the way of interesting conversation, my town was sleepy and conservative, and my day-to-day was repetitive and overly structured. This was a chance to meet new people, have new challenges, explore New York City, and open my mind to a world that I had never experienced before.
I took the job, and I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Following my Bloomberg internship, I spent every college summer interning at organizations or companies. I've seen a lot of different kinds of companies. At Bloomberg, I was in a fast-moving, on-your-feet environment that fostered innovation, creativity, and spirit. At INTAR Theatre Company, I was part of a team of four, where I got to be a part of every element of an upcoming production. At DigitasLBI, I was contributing to a massive advertising team where I helped manage huge budgets and plan ad campaigns. Here are just a few things I learned, from my first internship to my last:
It Is Possible to Really Like Working
I had been working small jobs since I was thirteen, but an internship is a real job, and a real job is incredible. You'll be given serious responsibilities and great exposure to that particular industry. In my case, at the ripe old age of 17, I was given an in-depth look into a Fortune 500 company. A real job also means real money. I was making some pretty great money that allowed me to actually support myself. There is nothing better than earning every dollar you spend.
You'll Make Some Great Connections
People always talk about "making connections" as though it's a professional relationship that requires a signed contract before either party offers the other support. In truth, connections are just the people who have seen what you can do and could vouch for you. Your managers and co-workers will be that first round of connections. I had wonderful managers who really welcomed me to each team and showed me the ropes. At Bloomberg and DigitasLBI, I was part of intern cohorts that truly supported each other, and we're still friends. At my current job, I literally sit next to my old co-intern. We work together on nearly every project, and I know that she has my back through thick or thin.
Even If You Don't Love It, You'll Learn From It
My Bloomberg internship showed me enough of the financial world to know that I didn’t want to pursue finance as my career. It’s a great option for many people, it just very clearly wasn’t for me. By the same coin, it also showed me that every single person should have some experience working in finance. It teaches you many lessons, some of which I truly believe you cannot get anywhere else. The moral here is that you might not like every job you take, but just know that it is definitely going to teach you something.
You Are Going to Be Young For A Long Time
Each internship taught me how to work with people much older than me. Whether you’re a high school intern, a college intern, or an entry-level employee straight out of college, chances are you are going to be the youngest person on your team for quite a while. An internship is a great time to recognize when your age is your strength and when it’s your weakness. At Bloomberg, most of my team was middle-aged. They were all married and had kids and left every day at five to get home to their families. At INTAR, my boss was a guy who was also a part-time bartender. He came into the office whenever he wanted and left when he wanted and he did what he wanted. It was pretty cool. At DigitasLBI, all of my bosses were under 30. We chatted as much about The Bachelorette as we did campaign proposals and client deliverables. In each of these experiences, I learned how to be professional and relate to people of every age, allowing my work to speak for me and not my youth.
It's Important to Know Yourself
Here’s the thing though: an internship isn’t for everyone. Companies are not looking for children, they are looking for young adults. Really assess yourself, your current skills, and your maturity level. If you truly feel that you can handle responsibilities while being managed and learning quickly, definitely consider applying. If you are still getting in trouble at school or with your parents, wait. Seriously. There is no harm in waiting to intern until you're ready to handle it; in fact, most students wait until after their junior or senior year of college to start applying. If you show up at a company and act like a teenager, you’re going to get fired. It’s not worth it.
Every Internship Counts
Even though I have had a lot of experience since Bloomberg, I still keep it on my resume. I’ve been asked about it in every single interview I’ve ever had. Considering that the rest of my resume is pretty different, an internship at Bloomberg LP before I even attended college really stands out. Regardless of whether it’s Bloomberg or in the middle of nowhere, every internship counts. If it sounds interesting and you're ready for a bit of an adventure, apply! Trust me when I say, you will truly be grateful you did. You know how I know this? My last internship, DigitasLBI, gave me a job offer before I was even done with my internship. I took the offer, and I've loved every day since. Like I said, I really like working.
Good luck out there, Class of 2014!