I would assume that many of you have had an internship, have an internship currently, or will have an internship in the future. I fall into the “have an internship currently” category. Personally, at this point in my life, I am happier than I’ve ever been. Coming into this summer, there has been a definite shift in me and I think I’ve figured out why.
At the end of April, I quit my job that I had held for a year and was not fond of at all. I was working at a small medical device company as a Quality Coordinator. This sounds fine, right? Well, no, that’s not right—I was never really trained in because, when they hired me, I was the only employee in the quality department. Having no experience in this field (which the company fully knew in the interview), I seemed to be hired to scrounge around and figure it out. I was up to the challenge, but alarmed that there was no training or development offered to me. I was so disgruntled everyday because no one gave—pardon my French—two shits about me being there and not having any experience. I basically ended up sitting around all day trying to teach myself, which was a little complicated because regulatory/quality work is not always (or ever) a piece of cake.
That job had to come to an end, but I wanted to stick it out for at least a year so it wouldn’t look bad on my résumé. In March, I had the opportunity to reconnect with an old friend I hadn’t seen in probably five years. We caught each other up on our lives and he told me about a business he started (with someone else I know!) called Shema.
Shema is a benefit corporation and ethical clothing manufacturer that is working to alleviate poverty and empower women who have previously been enslaved and/or trafficked. Their goal is to plant 25 sewing co-ops in S.E. Asia in the next 5 years that will employ these vulnerable women so that they do not have to return to selling themselves (as many rescued survivors do). These sewing co-ops are not a means to an end, but rather a springboard into the future, whether that be education or other job opportunities.
The reason I’m telling you all of this is because I was offered an internship at Shema in March! After learning more about the opportunity, there was no way I couldn’t jump on it! So, here I am now: I’m their social media/communication intern this summer. I quit my decently paying job for an unpaid internship (with some criticism from family and friends). So, why did I do it?
I felt that Shema was where I was supposed to be. The job description consists of everything I’ve had recurring thoughts about wanting to do or wanting to learn in the past 8 months (i.e. social media, writing, photography, videography, etc.) There is plenty of opportunity for all of these things. However, the bigger reason I wanted to do this internship was because I wanted to do something that I found meaning in and that would impact the world around me. I was feeling extremely burnt out at my other job because I wasn’t utilizing my strengths and I wasn’t excited about their mission/company.
With sacrificing my income, I am happier than ever because I’m doing something that is life-giving (to me); I am not settling at my other job anymore just because it paid the bills. Now, I understand that this can be a lot more complicated for other people—it definitely was complicated for me too, but I encourage you to understand your strengths and your weaknesses and focus on strengthening your strengths! Maybe this is in regard to work or major at school or whatever it may be, but I’m telling you: do something that is challenging (strengthen your strengths) but not suffocating (like my other job was because I was trying to exercise my weaknesses).
In the words of Ramon Pastrano (ImpactLives CEO and strengths-based leadership trainer), “There is no such thing as a well-rounded person, but rather strong people that make a well-rounded team.”