This summer was rather interesting. Looking back at my personal plan paper, I realize there are very few things that match up between what I wanted to do this summer and what I actually ended up doing. This most definitely does not mean that I did not enjoy my time this summer but rather, I was shocked to look back at the goals I had set for myself in the beginning of the semester. If anything, this experience has taught me that there is not one specific path that is the “right one”.
The internship process was a challenge for me. When I began applying, I started looking at small consulting firms that would offer me a look into the consulting world. I thought that this was the type of experience that I wanted on my resume because it looked “impressive” and seemed like the right thing to do. However, when May came around and I still didn’t have an internship, I began panicking. Most of my peers had already found positions for the summer and it left me feeling helpless and that I was not going to find anything. At the end of the day, this extra pressure pushed me to apply to positions outside of my comfort zone. If I am being completely transparent, I became desperate. I was applying to anything and everything that I could find on LinkedIn (not a strategy that I would recommend). On a whim, I applied for a Sales Enablement internship at Addison Group. I don’t even know if I completely read the job description before clicking the button to submit my resume.
I received a phone call from the VP of People Strategy that I did not receive this position. At first I was confused why she would call me to inform me of my rejection, but afterwards she told me about a different position that they were creating, a Learning and Development Internship. She thought that I would be a great fit for this position based on my experiences and skills that I learned in Jepson. At the end of my internship, the VP of People Strategy admitted to me that when I interviewed for the Sales Enablement Internship, she had already filled the position. A coworker of mine asked why she was still interviewing for interns when the position was already filled. She simply replied “if I like one of them I’ll find a spot.” Which is exactly what she did. I love this story because it exemplifies a big part of the company culture.
One of the main takeaways that I gathered from this internship experience was relationship between leader and follower. I saw LMX theory applied in every small moment of the day. There is such a strong bond between leader and follower that there are times when authority may waver. However, in critical situations, the leaders never failed to exert their authority. With this strong relationship between leader and follower, there is a certain degree of trust. The VP People Strategy reports to the Chief of Operations, so when she marched into his office pleading the case for another intern, he happily obliged and trusted her decision making. This unique relationship permeated through every level of the company and there was a basis of respect that honestly surprised me. For the type of organization that this was, this closely knit leader and follower dynamic worked extremely well for them.
Looking back at my personal plan paper from the beginning of the semester, my goals throughout the internship process were to gain soft and technical skills. Firstly, I wanted to learn more about how to apply Microsoft Excel to every office use. Throughout my internship experience, I used to excel daily to track internal referrals within the company, to gather and interpret data from our online learning platforms, and to conduct research on current trends in both the staffing industry and the learning and development field. With this experience, I believe that my Excel skills definitely did strengthen and I feel much more confident using this tool in an office setting. Even though I was not using particularly challenging Excel functions, the act of using it on a daily basis reinforced a lot of the ideas that I had learned in the classroom.
I also wanted to improve my communication skills, both verbally and written. Throughout my internship, I had plenty of opportunities to send business emails to people all across the company as well as communicate verbally with people on my team and throughout all of their offices. In fact, every few weeks I was tasked with sending an email blast to all of the 1500 employees. This definitely challenged me to learn more about email etiquette and just general communication in the office. I was surprised to find how different each person was when it came to communication. My direct manager would send me emails with smiley faces and GIFs, while one of my coworkers had a very assertive and powerful approach to business emails. It took me a little bit to learn how to change my own communication style based on who I am communicating with. This is not just for email, but also for in-person interactions. It was very interesting to see how people’s personal preference played out in the workplace, with everything out to their tendency to shake hands or hug.
Looking back at these goals that I had set for myself in the beginning of the semester, I am excited to look back and see what I achieved during the summer. While reflecting on this experience I was reminded that there is not a “one-size-fits-all” plan for career paths. While this was not the industry or position I was initially interested in, I learned so many skills that are applicable to any industry. While reviewing my personal plan paper, I realized that I actually gained most of the skills that I had hoped to, despite the fact that I did not have the “title” that I had hoped. At the end of the day, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and learn about a new industry and I think that this knowledge will be super beneficial in any career that I choose.
Not only did this internship provide me with new knowledge, but I was able to provide a new perspective to their organization and make contributions that were actually taken seriously and respected. Everyone in the office was so intrigued by my Leadership Studies degree and they were constantly asking questions about how their leadership ranks up to others and how they can improve their own styles. They were truly fascinated by what I had to say about my observations and they were actively trying to make their team better every step of the way. I was initially uncomfortable talking about their leadership styles with them because I did not want to offend them. As an intern who has been working for two weeks, I felt that I was in no position to be offering them advice. However, they made it a collaborative process and we sat down and discussed it together. I was able to touch about how their social identity as a team and how their relationships are the main focus of leadership.
One woman in particular that I worked with was in charge of the acquisitions that our company held. One of our largest acquisitions is a consulting firm based out of Seattle and she allowed me to sit in on conference calls with their leadership team quite frequently. When she would hang up the phone call, she frequently asked me what I thought about the group dynamics and leadership tactics that were used by this executive team. She was constantly asking me for feedback and advice and it felt great to be respected enough to be involved in the process. The entire experience was truly collaborative and I loved working together as a team with her. There was the give and take of us constantly teaching each other and learning from each other.
Ultimately, while I reflect on my time at Addison Group, I am nothing but grateful for the opportunity to gain all the skills I wanted this summer. While it wasn’t what I would have quoted as my “dream job” in my personal plan paper, it ended up being the perfect position for me. This experience has opened my eyes to all the potential career paths that exist. Thinking about post graduation jobs used to scare me, but now I am excited knowing that there are plenty of options for me to pursue a career that I am passionate about. I am especially excited about finding a company culture that matches the one I experienced this summer. It has made me realize how important it is to have a strong work-life balance and I feel better equipped to notice these factors when I am applying to my next position.