July 21, 2013

Internship a win-win situation

Sondra Olds

---- — Two weeks ago, this column by Paul Grasso was about the value an internship can have to a college, a business and a student if properly constructed. This week I will share with you my experience.

This summer at The Development Corporation (TDC), I am “The Intern.”

When I met Paul, it was immediately clear that he was serious about making this an experience that would benefit both of us. Many students I know find their experience as an intern to be more an exercise of “putting in time,” either filing documents or making copies, than a learning experience. We wanted to be sure I left TDC with documented work experience in several areas including written composition, promotional campaigns, public speaking and social-media analysis — all great resume builders.

Unbeknownst to me, I would also learn the big difference between classroom theory and workplace practice.

I got my opportunity to interview with TDC because my mother and Paul were co-workers at OneWorkSource. This was the first real lesson I learned, connections are important.

Lesson number one: Always develop a connection with the people you meet, you never know how they can or will affect your future. It’s those connections (and a little luck) that can open the door to your career, but it’s how you perform that will help open other doors.

Lesson number two: No matter how many classes you take concentrating on your major, the theory will always differ from the practice.

I joined the TDC team believing Castleton had prepared me for “the real world.” I had done well learning the required material a Communications student should know, but I soon found out the challenge is quite different in an office where the organization’s goals are much more complex than the broader classroom experience. My time management and organizational skills, which I thought were pretty good, were put to the test against deadlines and prioritizing projects.

However, one of the things I found easier than expected was personal interaction with local business and community leaders. I have learned the value of building relationships and the networking I have done through the numerous projects my internship has required.

In school, I was taught concepts from a “black or white perspective.” Working for TDC, I learned that the concepts are more “gray” as I continue to expand my base of knowledge.

Which leads me to my third (and perhaps the most important) lesson: Never stop learning.

Every person you meet, every event you attend, every meeting you observe has some value (good or bad) and you must be present to “catch it.” My advice to any intern: Use the skills you learned in school, listen and observe, and extract the information that is important and use it to further career goals.

In the two short months I have been working with TDC, I have learned these lessons firsthand while achieving many of the learning objectives and project requirements we set when planning my internship. For example, I have:

— Developed appreciation for the skills I learned at Castleton as well as for the foundation I received at Chazy Central.

— Received several opportunities for public speaking making presentations at AM Rotary and for the Youth Ambassadors of Canada.

— Assisted in TDC promoting events such as their annual golf outing, Business After Hours and accompanying the “Made In Clinton County” documentary team as they have toured our TDC tenants.

— Written various press releases and monthly newsletters revealing TDC and their tenants’ continuous accomplishments.

— Helped create an internship manual for employers and students who are looking to benefit from future internships as I have done.

And, I have had the opportunity of using this column to tell of my experience.

I want to thank all of the staff at TDC for their support and encouragement, especially Joanne Knowlton for the guidance and mentoring she has shown me. Sharing with me the gift of her experience has helped fulfill my education and left me with new friendships. I also send a special thank you to Paul, who not only gave me this opportunity, but made sure it would be a valuable work experience that would prepare me for the next step in my life. Not every Annie finds a Daddy Warbucks!

Sondra Olds is a senior at Castleton State College majoring in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations.