Doing Work You Love

There’s a moment I’ve experienced a few times that I think some people will never see in their entire life. It’s the moment when you realize that what you’re doing in the current moment makes you incredibly happy. You feel fulfilled and challenged and capable all at the same time. It’s invigorating, yet peaceful. The work you do is finally meaningful.

Perhaps the first time I felt this was during a ballet class. When I was straining muscles I didn’t even know I had, I found myself absorbed in the present moment. Nothing I had to do was worrying me, and there was nothing else I would rather be doing. It was an experience that has shaped my mental and physical health and brought me to a better quality of life.

I experienced this again today when I excitedly messaged my mother and said “Look, I’m making promotional plans and writing ad copy and being given actual work! I get tasks on Asana every day, and it really feels like what I’m doing is important.” I sat back for a moment after sending this and smiled. During the first phase of my current internship, I felt lost and confused on what I should be doing to help. None of my efforts seemed to be amounting to such. As soon as I started taking my work into my own hands and connecting with the right people, my role began to form.

“Community catalyst” is what my supervisor refers to me as. I like it, it’s simple, and it’s a title. I’ve been craving something more than “intern” for a while now. Although I could settle for something simple and easily defined such as intern, I knew it didn’t amount to much on paper. Community Catalyst outlined what I did and gave some importance to it. My supervisor is finally getting value out of the work I am providing them. I’m much more inclined to do my job and check in with my co-workers.

There is an incredible value to feeling useful. When I felt as though my work was unimportant, I rarely checked in, rarely completed it, and rarely enjoyed doing it. I would say I feel the complete opposite towards the work I’m doing now, simply because it seems more important.

Interns, although lacking in experience, have a lot of passion. They know that the future will require a lot more than a college degree. They’re ready to gain skills that will get them to where they want to be. Giving them tasks that don’t suit their abilities or interests will just end in burnout.

Instead, internships should be a collaborative process between the worker and the supervisor. There should be periodic check-ins about how the work is going, what the person is enjoying most, and if they’d like to try anything new. Once my supervisor implemented some of these strategies, I felt as though my frustrations or successes were pieces of information they were interested in. It became a team effort to cultivate skills I desired.


The Ponderings of an Intern

Delving into the world of entrepreneurship and cutting-edge ideas was not on my list of “things to do before starting college,” yet here we are. Very few students who intend to pursue a university degree become interns before going off to school, but I didn’t want to sit around until the summer after my freshman year. I wasn’t willing to wait to embark on a journey that seemed to call me – unpaid internships.

It’s true, I felt drawn to the world of acting as, essentially, a sponge. I wanted to work with fantastic people and absorb every groundbreaking idea they voiced. Getting in at the ground level of intriguing startups was the easy part, but finding my place in them was not so simple. I spent time traveling, working on planes, in airports, in random coffee shops and co-working spaces to make it all fit. Although my work seemed tedious and unimportant at times, I knew that someone had to do it.

This has been going on since April, and in that time, I’ve had a lot of thoughts about how my work as an intern may impact my professional life going forward. Although everyone has said that making a reputation for myself as a hard worker will never hurt me, I’ve often wondered if it will stunt my growth or creativity. There is always a nagging voice in the back of my mind asking me “why bother working for a startup when you don’t have an idea for one of your own?”

Ponderings such as that are tricky. My own consciousness does beg a decent question: is it worth it to learn the workings of a brand new, yet complex idea if you don’t have plans to ever use the knowledge to create something from your mind? The answer to this question has to be found inside of every intern, but here is my reasoning on why it is still valuable to intern at a startup:

  1. You’re learning something: Regardless of what you’re doing, you’re increasing your skill set. I don’t care what anyone else says, the more you’re capable of the more your value will increase. You’re being taught how to communicate with people, convince them that your idea is worth a shot, and how to follow through on that statement.
  2. Your network of connections is expanding. The best advice I’ve read in a long time is to always ask for two introductions from everyone you meet. It doesn’t matter if they’re the CEO of the biggest company in the world or just a casual friend you go get drinks with on the weekend. It truly is who you know, not what you know.
  3. You are actually building your reputation. By working with startups and people who want to see the world move and shake, you’re creating a name for yourself as someone who is willing to do the hard work that gets good results. Supervisors don’t want people who were never willing to risk working at a startup, they want people who saw the risk and took the chance anyway because they had the confidence that their skills could push the company to where it needed to be.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have your own idea. One may come in the future, one may not, but working as an intern doesn’t define your position for life. The only thing it says about you is your willingness to pursue a career despite any barriers or stereotypes in your way.


Deciding Something isn’t for You

For the past month, I worked with as an intern with a group in my area. I was so hopeful for this opportunity. I thought it would be a fantastic way to meet some people and maybe even make connections for future internships. However, this was not the case.

I found that the group and I didn’t share the same values or attitudes towards our work. I felt out of place and unwelcome, even though I was doing a job that they had seemed eager about. Now that my internship is coming to a close, I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be seeking work with them in the future. I do believe that what they are doing is incredibly important for preserving culture, but I’m not interested in being in a toxic environment for the sake of culture.

It’s hard to see when a job isn’t right for you, especially if you’re tight for cash. I think what I was actually doing, such as the actual work I was performing, was enjoyable. It was the people I was surrounded by that frustrated me. That’s another factor that comes into play – is the work not for you or are the people you’re with assholes? I would suggest finishing the amount of work you signed up for, especially if you’re being paid for it. Once all is said and done, you should have had enough time to figure out if you’re willing to come back.

When it’s the environment or the that you hate, I would say it’s best to leave. The reality is, that environment most likely won’t be experiencing a drastic change anytime soon, so you’ll just be putting yourself back into a shitty situation. Even if the culture or vibe of that workplace does change, you’ve probably developed a negative connotation around that specific job and might not be able to perform well in it.

If it’s the job that you’re performing that you hate but you enjoyed the environment, I would talk to your supervisor about doing something different for your next contract. If you were working in SEO, but you found it tedious or boring, maybe ask your manager if they would be willing to hire you as a marketing intern the next time you’re available to work. As an intern, most offerings will say that they want your experience to be valuable and that they’re willing to work with you in terms of what you want to do. Take advantage of that and explore every type of job they’re willing to give you.