Lessons Learned

As of yesterday, my summer internship is officially over!
I turned in my identification badge, printed out my hours, and turned in my final seminar paper. Score.
While this gives me cause for much celebration and happy dancing, I must pause and reflect on what I have learned during my 300+ hours as a Special Events/Fundraising Intern at Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley.

 10 Lessons I Learned From My Summer Internship:

 1. Telephone Tag Is Terrifying…but Necessary
I hate talking on the telephone. Let me rephrase that: I passionately LOATHE talking on the telephone. It is my one major phobia, and I find it highly ironic that I am a person who adores her stage time, but I totally panic when asked to call someone on the phone. Bizarre, I know. So, when I was asked to call 500 businesses to solicit silent auction donations for our golf outing, I freaked out. But somehow, I managed to get through the list…and the massive list of subsequent follow-ups. I learned to distance myself from the mission of asking;  the person on the other end of the line is not rejecting you personally, they are rejecting the very idea of giving. It’s pretty cut and dry; there is no need for playing mind games and doubting yourself: “Could I have rephrased the question? Should I have lowered the tone of my voice? Did I sound too anxious?” Actually, it’s very similar to going on countless auditions and receiving constant rejections. So, get used to it!

2. Savor Your Successes
Despite receiving rejections, I did assist with securing about 150 items for the silent auction. And they were GOOD prizes, let me tell you. Airline tickets, vacation getaways, Barry Manilow tickets, countless gift baskets…the list goes on for several spreadsheet tabs. 😉 Seeing your rounds of telephone tag pay off is really a great feeling, and it is wonderful to witness the continued generosity of individuals in these difficult economic times.

3. Don’t Get Overly-Confident
But don’t go overboard in celebrating the aforementioned successes, because the fact of the matter is, the next mini-crisis may be right around the corner. Always be on your toes; you never know what curve ball will be thrown at you next.

4. Always Accept Criticism…
…With a grain of salt, that is. It is very important, in any area of life, to stay grounded and humble. Nobody likes big egos. So, when someone offers a suggestion of improvement, consider the truth in what they are saying. It may help you in the long run, as life is a constant adaptation to new situations. However, don’t let criticism drain away your enthusiasm for the job at hand. If you dwell on every little issue, you will drown.

5. Don’t Underestimate Your Contributions
Although it is easy to view yourself as a lowly peon in the massive machinery of a large corporation, the truth is, your work as an intern DOES matter. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have hired you. And don’t think your efforts go ignored, because every contribution to the mission of the organization truly matters. Not only will you gain personal satisfaction at seeing the fruition of your labor, but your efforts will be recognized— whether by other interns, supervisors, or volunteers in your organization. Dedication IS appreciated.

6. You Are Valuable
In a world that continues to depend on technology, the stark fact remains that nothing is more valuable than an actual person. You possess unique skills, opinions, thoughts, and solutions that can be offered to the problem-solving and brain-storming processes. And, as a member of the tech-elite generation, your savvy computer skills will make you a beacon of hope when tech problems arise in the workplace.

7. Use Your Connections
Chances are, you know more people than you think. This will help you very much, especially when your supervisor expresses a desire to build relationships with other organizations in the community. An organization is only as strong as the people in it, so when you add your connections to all the nonprofits you already know, to the nonprofit you are now interning with, you are helping the nonprofit community at large. “It’s mutual, I’m sure!” (Kudos to those who get the reference).

8. Think Outside the Box
Because you are a new face to the organization you are assisting, you have the advantage (and sometimes, disadvantage), of operating under a mindset free from the organization’s traditional thought patterns. Offer your fresh perspectives to a situation, when you are called upon. Don’t be too aggressive with your suggestions, though, or you may gain a reputation for arrogance. It is a fine line to tread, but I have faith in you. 😉

9. Maintain a Positive Outlook
When you have ten projects competing for your attention, it is very easy to become overwhelmed. DO NOT SUCCUMB! Keep your end goal in sight, whether it be a short-term goal (“Please let this event be a success”) or a long-term dream (“12 weeks left of my internship…will I make it?”). The end will be here before you know it!

10. Be Happy
I’m saying this because it is very important. Do what makes you happy; your performance at work and in life will improve dramatically if you are doing what you love. Although you may find that you do not particularly favor your internship’s field of work (or, you may absolutely love it!), take it as a learning experience for your future endeavors. You have gained valuable knowledge, forged strong relationships, and discovered new facets to yourself. Armed with these tools, you are better equipped to lead a happier life.

In all seriousness, I learned a great deal during my time with Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley, and I will take my improved skills with my on my future career quest.

Thank you for the opportunity, Akron Children’s!


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