I don’t think I expected it, I thought I was just going to volunteer.

I heard about the position on idealist.org, a job search engine that works to locate opportunities within non profits and other ‘doing good’ type jobs. I’d always been interested in public service and loved volunteering so I knew I wanted to do something that ‘helped people,’ but I wasn’t always sure where I wanted to work or what that looked like. Even though volunteering and internships didn’t pay I knew I wanted it deep in my heart and did them anyway. Note: Things may not pay today, but one day they will and 2) It’s not always about the pay, it’s about the experience. Over the years I’ve heard a lot of people who feel discouraged with the idea of taking on internships because they don’t pay or simply feel they can’t because the burden of having to find housing, and food. I get that and encourage you to look at grants and other forms of funding if you are worried about money. When I was taking on internships, I always had other forms of funding and sought out grants to help me with outside costs during them’ for example, grants that help cover the cost of ‘housing related expenses’ in the summer.

If you want it bad enough, there are ways to make it work and you can always ask around to find ways to make it work; ask your internship coordinator or supervisor or people who have taken on internships before to find ways they were able to afford it, they might know of organizations you could contact and apply to who help with summer funding from time to time. Some internships pay and companies are getting better at this so if you find something you enjoy that does pay, by all means, take it on! Another thing to do is to adjust your hours. At times when I went to school full time and worked and my internship required ‘working part time’ I asked whether I could come in on nights and weekends. That’s what I did with my first internship.During high school I would work on Friday nights then weekends in order to get the experience with the Resettlement Agency. My town didn’t have a lot of opportunities so I was surprised to find it and was excited to start.

I thought I would stay for a couple months, usually internships are 3 to 6 months, but I ended up staying for a year or two because I loved it so much. I stayed until graduation and even after I was done there, I kept in touch with the ladies from the organization and would attend church with them from time to time. The organization worked with churches to resettle refugees and we had a small staff and so were pretty close.

We helped refugees resettle in the US and provided programs that helped them navigate the US, for example, English classes, shopping trips and church services. There were several different volunteer positions but I decided to work in the office with the cases (where refugees list information about themselves and it’s how we keep track of their journey/life). I realized that there were people around me who had way more than many of the families we worked with so I decided to put on drives -collecting things for families in need of supplies- such as toilet paper, toothbrushes, sponges and more- for the organization.  I liked to do drives and I asked if I could put on a drive. Don’t be afraid to try to do things you like while interning and don’t be afraid to propose new ideas! When things are good, sometimes you’ll have the opportunity to stay. Sometimes they’ll offer you a job. And other times you’ll have the ability to move up and around to learn, or do more. Most times that’s not the case, but don’t focus too much on getting hired, the point is to learn and gain a skill set more than it is to get a job and sometimes by just concentrating on the results, you forget to do a good job, focus on the work and you’ll be fine.

It’s just as important to realize maybe this isn’t what you want as it is to figure out what you do want. Staying honest to yourself, you’ll find what is meant for you and whether this is work you want to be doing in your life. If you stay and still aren’t paid, or you aren’t sure about your time, only stay if you feel you are still learning and being respected for your time and talent. It’s not always about money but if it is make sure you’re having a good time learning in and outside of the company and know it will take you somewhere; be it learning new skills or having a greater learning experience. If they don’t hire you or you’re not learning, don’t take it as a bad thing, learn from it and move on. It’s important to try many things, you may take on ten internships, maybe 50, or just one until you realize it isn’t for you, but don’t give up on finding what works for you, take opportunities as serious as you would a learning experience, you never know where you’ll end up so try to find experiences rather than just something to put on your resume and in everything you do, find what works for you. Sometimes it’s about learning who you are and the kind of work you enjoy more than it is about the positions and titles. Find what works for you.

If you’re taking on an internships this semester, where are you working? If you’re just starting out, what are your ‘intern questions?’ Share in the comments below !

 

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