This is a guest post by Amanda Pipich for Student Stories.
It’s no secret to any college graduate – looking for a job is daunting. It’s a race, and we’re all competing against each other: battling it out to land the perfect job, work in the highest paid industry, and throw all the glory in our peers’ faces. Some get lucky and land their dream jobs right away while the rest of us feel left in the dust, so what do we do?
We scour job boards until our fingers fall off, hoping that hard work and diligence will soon reward us. For those who have had successful internships, you’ll hear stories of how great the experience was, how much they learned, and the value it brought to their next job. One thing you don’t hear much about is the other side of the proverbial fence: what happens when an internship isn’t what you thought it would be.
I graduated from Northeastern University in September 2013 with a BS in Organizational Communication, and just like any other college graduate, I’d been searching high and low for a job in my field. During college, I developed an interest in marketing and public relations, yet when it came down to looking for a job in that sector, I had no such luck. One day I came across an article stating that you’re more likely to be hired for a job if you’ve done an internship, so I took the bait – after months of searching, I finally found a full time, paid marketing internship in Boston. I was ecstatic – I got a job in my field doing something I went to school for and it was something I was interested in! What more could a college graduate ask for?
As an intern, I did whatever I could to prove that I belonged as a full time employee: I’d come in early, work through lunch, stay late, and in between projects I’d scour the internet and read everything possible about the industry. I worked tirelessly, but three months into the internship, I was offered a full time position. Finally, everything I had worked for as an intern paid off!
Once the dust settled, reality set in: I was bored to death at my job, always asking my boss for more work. I had no desire to learn about the biotech industry, and to make matters worse, I felt invisible to everyone I worked with. Apparently, the general consensus among the staff was made that I, once an intern, was below everyone. The hard reality I learned is that acceptance is not automatic – you’re going to work with difficult people no matter where you go, and you can’t always win everyone over. It dawned on me that if the best part of my day was getting in my car and driving away from work, that was a problem I needed to fix – and fast.
One day, I had an epiphany and realized that I’m much too young to be wasting my time on something I’m not passionate about. As it turned out, the things I enjoyed doing when I wasn’t working is what I had true passion for: on lunch breaks I’d go shopping, look up outfit ideas on my phone, or cook something new at home. In order to really involve myself in my interests, I started managing my own website where I write about fashion, beauty, food, and life through my own eyes. To my surprise, it’s actually gotten a considerable amount of traffic – when I posted a brownie recipe my mom gave me, I got nine shares within an hour. When you realize that people who share the same interests are responsive to your work, it’s another verification that you’re on the right track.
You may think you know exactly what you want to do with your life, and you may be right once you land that internship. Even if you think you know, that could very well change – I prove that. I always thought I knew what I wanted to do while in college, but when it came down to actually doing it, I realized it wasn’t what I wanted after all. However, that doesn’t mean all is lost or that everything you’ve worked for was a waste – it’s just a small setback. If you have a hunch that you hate your job, dial back a bit and ask yourself: what exactly do I hate about it? Is it the menial tasks or the industry? What makes me happy outside my job? As strange as it sounds, you tend to find your calling when you veer off the path you think you belong on.
Now that I know what I want to do with my life, it actually puts me back to square one, but I’m taking it a day at a time – success doesn’t happen overnight. My intent is not to dissuade anyone from doing an internship they feel may point them toward the right career. If anything, my only goal is to prepare you for the worst and to take all the possibilities under consideration. It’s important to be optimistic, but it’s even more important to consider another reality – the possibility that your needs and wants will change. I’m not saying being an intern was a waste of time, because it wasn’t – because of this position, I was able to decipher what I don’t want in life from what I do want. Now, I’m working toward a fashion-based editorial career by doing whatever possible: freelancing, blogging, writing articles, tuning up my website, and reading anything and everything I can get my hands on to better equip myself for the next chapter.
When you think you’ve reached an impasse at an internship you find less than thrilling, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Keep in mind that you can still find that little piece of serendipity if you veer off your “path” every now and then.
About the Author:
Amanda Pipich does marketing and public relations for an information services company in Boston, MA. When she’s not working, she is busy managing and writing for her fashion and beauty website, adding to her wardrobe, finding the best places to eat, and going to the gym. Her dream job: become a writer at a top fashion magazine, and ultimately writing her own column. Check out her LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter @apipich.