When I first came into PWID, the whole internship process seemed mystical, terrifying, and like a very “grown up” thing to do for someone who wasn’t even sure she was on the right career path. I kind of looked forward to it, because it sounded like something that would make me feel like a real professional and help me grow my skills, but I was mostly filled with a sense of dread—how would I find an internship? Would I like it? Would my classes truly prepare me for the experience? How would I work in a career field I hadn’t even completed my studies in? I decided to shelf those concerns for junior year, when I could get an internship with the knowledge that I had at least completed 3/4th of my major. I hoped by then I would feel confident.
My plans drastically changed when my boyfriend and I decided that we were going to get married and move during the summer after my junior year. Since I didn’t want to juggle a wedding, a move, and an internship at the same time, the spring of my sophomore year was spent hastily trying to find someone, anyone who would take me on as their summer intern. I found a company that was looking for part-time writers, and I persuaded their publication editor to take me on as their first intern. I was grateful when I got the job offer, because I knew it was my last opportunity to have an internship at a convenient time.
At a glance, the job seemed like something that would be perfect for me. I am a PWID major with minors in Bible and Women’s Ministry, and my new internship tasked me with writing adult Sunday school curriculum. The idea of getting paid to write about the Bible didn’t seem like everything I’d dreamed of, but it was close. The company let me work from home, several states away from their organization’s office, and all I had to do was get 300 hours in by the end of the summer. While talking to my new boss, I realized that there were a few red flags about the job, but at this point, I figured I just needed to get my internship credit, so it would be fine.
However, over time, many of my fears about having an internship came true. I discovered that remote work with no supervision, coworkers, or regular communication did not suit me at all. Whenever I would try to hole myself up in my room or in a corner of the library alone for 8 hours at a time, all I wanted to do was be around people. Then, when I would try to work in a coffee shop or around my family, I would find myself distracted and demotivated.
On top of that, I was already working another part-time job, and juggling both of them was very hard for me. I struggled to fit in the hours I needed for the internship. Then, after a while, I realized that although this internship was paid, it was paid by assignment, and I was spending way too much time on my assignment for it to even out to a decent hourly amount. Eventually, I had to extend the internship into the fall semester because I just couldn’t keep up with it. In my mind, it was the worst-case scenario, and I was left to wonder what had happened.
It was toward the end of my internship that I realized something quite significant: This remote internship was basically adult homeschool! Let me explain. When I was a kid, my parents tried to homeschool me, but eventually they had to send me to public school because of the same exact reasons I wasn’t thriving in my internship. I am an externally-motivated person, so I function extremely well in situations where I’m being pushed by a strong leader to produce my best work, and when I’m building relationships with people who are also working to achieve their full potential. When I don’t have structure and hardworking peers surrounding me, I flounder in my efforts, which is why homeschool didn’t work out for me, but when I have those elements, I thrive.
I’ll spare you the dramatic story about how everything almost fell apart at the end as well, but trust me…by December, everyone involved knew that that internship was not working out for me. My worst fears were realized. And yet… I am BEYOND thankful for it. You know why? Because now I know everything I need to look for in a job.
I learned that simply having coworkers to communicate with and bounce ideas off of is a vital requirement. There needs to be built-in accountability with consequences if I’m not reaching my goals. I want to work for a strong leader who will build me up and help me reach my full potential, and for heaven’s sake, I’ll make sure the company shares my values and passions and encourages me to be creative.
My failure at this internship did not mean there was something horribly wrong with me, and it didn’t mean that the company was bad either. It just meant that my personality did not mesh with that company, in that position, at that time. And that’s okay.
Now I am in my senior year, and I have had multiple opportunities to affiliate myself with organizations that I care deeply about and really thrive in. I have gained more confidence and resilience than I ever thought I’d have. I learned everything I needed to learn, even in “the worst case scenario,” and everything turned out totally fine. So yeah, my internship wasn’t a good fit. But, at the end of the day, I am SO thankful for it.