So my college major, grades and transcripts won’t matter in the “real world,” or at least that’s what I’m told. The question then becomes ‘what can we students do to land that postgraduate dream job?’
College students have figured out that experience is everything and internships are priceless – literally. (Most are unpaid.) Finding the right internship is difficult, but a whole new challenge arises after you accept a position.
While business professionals discuss the importance of work/life balance, students like me should think about a work/life/school balance. Interns must keep up with their professional responsibilities on top of coursework, extracurricular activities and maybe a social life.
Despite the added stress, students are choosing to intern because college is the time to focus on learning. There is something to be learned with every internship opportunity, whether the work entails picking up coffee for the boss or writing press releases. One of the most valuable lessons an intern learns is how to balance college and professional life.
At MP&F, the internship program is well-structured and geared toward learning. I’ve been here barely two months but have already covered a lot of PR ground. Unlike other internships, this one pays an hourly wage, which makes me take my intern duties more seriously. Plus, I’m not getting paid to pick up coffee, but rather to do such things as create a client’s social media content. Having meaningful work to do makes the learning that much easier.
Speaking of learning, I’m not only an MP&F intern, but also a senior at Vanderbilt University studying human and organizational development. I’m lucky because my schedule this semester doesn’t include macroeconomics or poetry. Instead, I’m working 32 hours a week. My one course focuses on analyzing and understanding the company’s strengths and weaknesses. Though I must say, the weaknesses are hard to come by here. My nontraditional homework includes interviewing staff members, documenting my experience and trying to come up with a way to somehow make MP&F a better place to work – again, a difficult feat.
While this isn’t my first 9-to-5 job, for the first time I’m working 9-to-5 before coming home to attend club meetings, volunteer, cook dinner, spend time with friends and then complete my school assignments. Late nights and early mornings are part of my routine, but a busy schedule has forced me to do some self-reflection about what is really important.
First and foremost, I try to keep up with my close family and friends. When life gets stressful, these are the best people to turn to. Secondly, I take some time to do something for myself, whether that’s taking a yoga class or reading a book. Lastly, I’m constantly reminding myself that college is the time to focus on gaining knowledge and experiences, in and out of the classroom. Having responsibilities that contribute to a larger organization’s goals and not only my grade means that I have to be fully engaged in my work at all times.
Although I missed the Thursday afternoon Commodores football game, my internships have been a large part of my college experience and education, and I don’t regret any of my time spent in an office. Finding the balance between personal and professional life can be difficult (I still haven’t figured it out), but isn’t coffee at 3 a.m. what college is all about?
Greer Shellow, a native of Thousand Oaks, Calif., is an MP&F fall intern. A senior at Vanderbilt University, she is majoring in human and organizational development.