The Three-Dimensional Experience: A Student’s Internship Exploration
One month into my third summer internship, I can now say that I have developed a keen understanding of what it is like to work for a start-up, NGO (non-governmental organization), and large corporation. I think it is critical for all college students to get internships in different settings because it allows one to get a good sense of what work opportunities exist. When I say “settings,” however, I do not just mean start-up versus NGO versus large corporation; I am also talking about the city the internship is in; the industry the organization for which you work for can be categorized by; and so on. I believe many students do not know what direction they want to take their career in post-graduation because they have not explored enough options, regardless of the fact that all job opportunities have their respective pros and cons. For example, while an intern at an accounting firm may have a high chance of landing a full-time job at that same company post-graduation, they do not necessarily know if they will enjoy the experience full-time. (In fact, I met with someone the other day who went through the above scenario and wound up leaving a large accounting firm in order to pursue other ambitions…this person told me that they should not have discounted other opportunities.) On the flipside, by seeing what it is like to work at a start-up, NGO, and/or large corporation, or a combination of three very different experiences, I have gained a broad understanding of the different lifestyles that exist at each company. Below, I give a bit of a description of my experiences at the summer internships I have held since I came to college:
The start-up culture is a fast-paced one with much unpredictability. One’s focus at a start-up can be in one of many different fields, from business development or strategy (the two I specifically tackled) to design or engineering, or sales or public relations, just to name a few. Often, you will find a handful of people (at the time, Applico was about five years old and had a double-digit number of employees) who are always on the grind over an extended number of hours. The culture of a start-up is unique when comparing it to that of other companies; as one may watch on shows such as Silicon Valley, pool tables (which they had at Applico) and free snacks (also at Applico) allow employees to take a break and renew themselves with energy. The double-edged sword with start-ups, however, is that while there can be hypergrowth, one can never know when a start-up can close its doors, whether it be because of an over-valuation or that it has burned too much cash before turning a profit.
PROS: surrounded by ambitious people, nice perks
CONS: working long hours, unexpected direction of the business, frequently unpaid for interns
NGO: United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth (UN-MGCY)
Commuting to the UN headquarters in New York City was quite a unique experience. To summarize my position and responsibilities, I was an individual member of one of the major groups within the United Nations. Major groups are mechanisms, or spaces (metaphorically), through which people from various NGOs participate in the creation of public policy. I worked with UN-MGCY and wore many hats. Whether it be talking to delegates from nations around the world, editing policy points to include the opinions that represented my major group, or attending side events—in order to enrich my overall experience—the days were long and often exhausting. My day started my a 6 am wake-up time, taking the train into New York City, and continued well into the night, working as many as 15-hour days and dodging overage warnings on my phone as I used my hotspot to work online. I did, however, get selected to represented to go to the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which was paid for by the UN. In Ethiopia, I along with other members of various NGOs from around the world, gathered to make the final pushes of policy points we wanted to be included in the outcome document of the conference: the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.
PROS: working towards a great common goal for the betterment of society, hidden surprises, off-the-beaten-path experience
CONS: long hours, frequently unpaid for those working for NGOs, initiatives often unsuccessful/goals often not reached
Large Corporation: Boston Scientific
Now that I am more than half-way done with my summer internship, I have gained a strong understanding of what it is like to not only work for a medical device company but a large company as a whole. What I love about Boston Scientific is that I am working alongside thousands of others from other countries, to support to lines of business that support our mission: “…transforming lives through innovative medical solutions that improve the health of patients around the world.” Boston Scientific has provided me with a foundation through their 12-week internship program, where I get a manager and am assigned a project that I complete during my time at the company. Additionally, I have weekly one-on-ones with two mentors: one in my department and another in a different function. This allows me to ask questions about the work my mentors do, work with them to establish goals, and receive introductions to others. I have taken advantage of having the opportunity to reach out to dozens of people across the company, from the director of my division to interns in other divisions. Compared to previous internships, the pace is slowed down a tad, and opportunities to develop as a young professional are strong given the size of the company.
PROS: established internship program, frequently paid, mentoring opportunities, employee resource groups, networking opportunities
CONS: not the best place to work for those who like consistently fast-paced environments
At the end of the day, if I were to share advice for any young professional, it would be to explore your passions, never discount listening to an opportunity (yes, even if you think you will not like hearing about it), and meet new people along the way. Work hard and have fun with it all!