Friday, September 27, 2013

Turning the Negative Into a Positive

PBS NewsHour wrote an article about unpaid internships.  Great topic of discussion as I travel down the path of self-discovery, human relations, understanding where my mistakes were made during employment situations as a displaced worker and recovering cancer patient.

As a college student in the first quarter; it has been a trying moment to find a balance of personal challenges, getting an education, coping with PTSD, acknowledging that my disability is not a weakness but a personal challenge that is unique to my personal experiences, and learning how to wade through the emotions, the challenges, and what I need to do to succeed while interacting in school, with employers, with friends, and relatives.

Internship is discussed several times as it is part of the college experience.  However, the important factor when thinking about internship is understanding that there is a need as a student to fulfill that requirement (if required in your program of choice), but to also understand our personal needs.  For an example:

  • Why did you choose that area of expertise for a profession?  What passion did that profession choice speak to?
  • Where do you desire to take that passion during your career?
  • What type of organization do you see yourself dedicating your time, effort, blood sweat and tears to?
  • What type of leaders do you desire to report to?
  • What works best for you in order to be effective and successful?
  • How do you see yourself in your career 5 years down the road?  Ten years?
  • What is your current home life like?  What challenges are you faced with?
  • What is your current friendships like?  What challenges are you faced with?
  • What are your own personal challenges with yourself?

There are many other questions at play that each of us must consider that is unique to our extrinsic/intrinsic motivations, passion, tendencies, needs and wants.  There should be several moments of evaluation and checks in order to insure that the path we are taking speaks to our desires without personal agenda with deleterious impacts on others and without the intent to purposely manipulate others.  Unless that is your intent.

The intent of an internship is to provide a student with life application.  To provide the student with the opportunity to learn how their education applies in the work force.  There are many people in the world with many life experiences that have their own opinions to contribute.  The key with the internship is to allow the student to obtain their own experiences.  Some experiences will be similar to others, some will be unique.  However each experience will be somewhat unique to that student because of the various experiences through life that student has already been through.  The circumstance may be the same, some of the emotions may be the same, but how we cope and what we learn will be different for each of us.

So, to contribute to the topic of internship, as a displaced worker who has spent many years in the work force; the message in this is that we have choices.  We all have choices.  Yes, we also have needs that are important.  Bills to pay, a degree to earn, etc.  However those needs do not have to dictate who we contribute what little time we already have to offer.  We do not have to relinquish our self respect and our power because we need to perform an internship.  Would it be nice to be paid?  Of course.  Do we have to be paid?  That's the topic of debate discussed in the PBS article.  

From my own personal experience and choice; because I have been in the work force and while I go to school it was my choice to volunteer to contribute what time I could in order to obtain the experience I need.  There is more value for myself to volunteer my time, to work along side professionals who have much to teach and share than to be compensated financially.  At some given point and time, that will change.

When it does, I will choose but choose wisely.  Just like choosing which employer I will dedicate my time to.  Do I need a job?  Of course.  However I do not need to be diminished as a human being by working for an employer who has the mentality that I should be "happy to have a job".  I do not desire to have a "job".  I desire to work with an employer with a career.  Is it possible?  Absolutely, yes.  I have personally experienced it and dedicated many hours to that employer with exuberance, with excitement, and eagerness for the day to start so I can be part of that environment again.

It is out there, and there are large companies and corporations who have the culture where that provide that intrinsic satisfaction.  It is a matter of doing our homework, interviewing the interviewer about the corporate culture, asking the right questions about the manager's style of management, and asking the organization what they view a successful employee to be.

There are also several small private companies (more so because they are not subject to the public corporation challenges) where your passion can be met.  Again, it boils down to doing the research and doing the homework on the following:

These skills are skills you can learn as you go through your internship with an organization.  Know who you are doing your internship with; are they the right organization for you?  What are the experiences of the previous interns and students?

You are in control of your destiny.  Don't relinquish that control to employers or organizations who will not appreciate you as a contributor to their organization.  You do not have to do that in order to get the experience you need.