Sunday, December 19, 2010
Your Career and You: "Your Internship...Putting It in Perspective"
We're wrapping up internships at Curry College, where I oversee the Public Relations concentration and teach most of the PR courses offered in our Communication major.
A couple of students whose internships I supervised from the faculty side absolutely outdid themselves, garnering rave reviews from their site supervisors and indicating in their post-internship "Reflection Papers" just how excited they are about ultimately working in my chosen career field.
Other students...not so much...and a couple stand out.
One thinks she wants to work in events planning, and she chose to get her "experience" in one of the major restaurants that specializes in weddings, corporate functions, and other big-crowd mob scenes.
On the "plus" side, she definitely experienced the behind-the-scenes insanity that goes into staging a large event, including how to properly arrange a place setting and what kind of shoes are appropriate if one is going to be working an event. (Hint: Your Manolo Blahnik high heels won't cut it!)
But she didn't learn a thing about promoting events...about planning events as a means of accomplishing corporate objectives...about getting corporate buy-in to even stage an event.
Was this internship a waste of time?
No. There were some lessons learned in the course of the semester.
But I would argue that the time could have been better spent working with a public relations firm learning all the ins and outs of dealing with clients, media, bosses, underlings, would-be dictators...
Another student was talking with me about an internship that he wants to take on in the spring. He's having difficulty finding the "right" one.
It's not that there are no internships...I've given him easily a half-dozen possibilities along with the names and contact info of friends who head those organizations.
But nothing has happened...he informed me that "none of those are 'good enough' for me."
Let's see...you want to learn about a particular segment of the business world because you kind of know what you want to do post-graduation... but none of these organizations "are good enough."
This one has all the makings of a genuinely rude awakening, and I'm going to be standing on the sidelines watching.
Which brings me back to "perspective." Real life is made up of two pieces: aspiration and reality. The "trick," if that's what you choose to call it, is to line those two puppies up as closely as possible...know what you want to do with your life...and know, at least in starting out, what you can do.
My wife Margaret once drove a salesman to the point of exasperation in the course of buying two matching table lamps...a two-hour exercise, I might add. She kept finding and pointing out microscopic flaws in one or the other of the lamps until finally the guy gently chided her with a "Nothing's perfect, little girl." (We bought the lamps and enjoyed them for nearly 20 years!)
The same holds true in professional life as well. Counting my current relationship with Curry College, I have had two nearly-perfect jobs in 40-plus years...the other (check with any of my students; they can tell you about it in a heartbeat!) was the Blood Bank of Hawaii.
Did I "settle" with either of those opportunities? Absolutely not. Would I take on either of those challenges again knowing what I know today? You better believe it.
Why? Because I knew what I wanted to accomplish in my own life, and I knew from experience that only special environments would make that possible.
And I have been right in both cases.
So my advice, for what it's worth, is this. Figure out what it is that you want to do with your life...what makes you proud?...what do you enjoy doing?...for whom?
Then set off on a march through life toward that goal. Accept that you will hit some potholes along the way. But keep a clear focus on what, at some point in the future when you're sitting on your verandah in Key West watching the sun set, you want to look back on with pride.
As was sung so eloquently by the Rolling Stones:
"You can't always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes, you just might find,
You get what you need."