Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

The Work You Do Matters — Believe It!

Top of the Rocky Mountains with snow

The wind rushes by me at well over 2 miles above sea level. Life is sparse at the top of the Rocky Mountains; only marmots are spotted scampering around the short grass that is able to grow here, some of which is still covered with snow. The snow is slowly melting downhill – trickles are a gross overstatement. My mother and I descend to a more hospitable environment for our hike where the dense forest is teeming with life. As we hike to a distant lake, we pass over a gushing river via a fallen log. I stopped on the precarious bridge for a photo and thought to myself: “how is all of this water coming from that little snow?”

Rocky Mountains River

Upon reflection, I think it’s a very apt metaphor for internships (as well as other aspects in life). I’d be correct in saying that most people have times in their internship where they feel as though their work is insignificant, however that metaphor shows that small contributions add up to something great. Each water molecule shed from the snow is miniscule, but in aggregate it creates a force that’s insurmountable. Likewise, each small task you do in your internship adds up to become greater than the sum of its parts. 

This realization hit me as I was entering raw data into a spreadsheet. I’d take the unformatted information from one place and reformate it to be more organized. I spent 6 and a half hours doing that (I should note that this work was highly atypical and more so due to me completely wanting to reorganize/update their database). As I reformatted address after address, I thought to myself “is the work I’m doing impactful? Will it actually matter?” For boredom’s sake I was tempted to say “no,” but my conclusion was on the contrary. Even if it was a mundane and tedious task, the work I was doing now would allow for the American Heart Association (a non-profit) to reach donors more efficiently and effectively, and in turn raise valuable capital for CPR training, stroke research, or cardiovascular disease education. The morsel of work that I was doing in the moment had the ability to compound into a dollar that could be spent saving someone’s life in the future.

You may be rolling your eyes. You may scoff that something so seemingly insignificant could have that big of an effect. Well I’d say you aren’t looking at the macro environment in which you exist in. Similar to the Butterfly Effect, your small action can snowball down the line and end up having a greater effect than ever imagined. Believe in yourself and the work that you do.

That being said, it is more fun taking on bigger tasks that have more tangible effects. If you’re finding yourself chronically bored at your internship, I implore you to ask for more. Or even better, take your work and give them work plus more; defy expectations and pretty soon you’ll find yourself getting larger and more engaging work. Just a tip.