By Lily Koenig
As I finished up my junior year in college I felt I was on the right path. Despite being sent home due to the coronavirus I had recently secured a full-time paying internship at a leading company in the cybersecurity industry. I had worked hard on my application, gone through three rounds of interviews and an extensive background check. All my family and friends knew how excited I was to start the job. But with one phone call, the future I worked so hard for seemed to disappear.
I was set to intern for the company’s marketing department and I received a call from one of their staff to let me know all the company’s internship programs had been cancelled. I was devastated. Not having a job for the summer added so many more unknowns to an already long list. It made me worry about a steady paycheck, an addition to my resume, and even a job after graduation. It was already April so I knew that if I wanted any internship I had to turn back to the job search and the endless application process.
A few weeks later I had an interview set up for a part-time internship at a new and small startup company called CareerGig.com (check them out!). The job responsibilities were just what I was looking for, but as with any startup the pay was small and definitely lower than what I was expecting to earn at the cancelled internship.. In addition, I was told by mentors and peers that you needed experience at a well-known firm to go anywhere in life. But I was getting desperate. I was offered the job a week after my interview and for the first time in a while, I felt a sense of peace. While the world was falling to pieces around me I had one steady and known thing in my life. I may not know what was going to happen with the coronavirus, with the government, or my school. I did know that for the next three months I had something to work for and had a sense of purpose
I started the internship in May. Immediately I was in meetings and video calls with the CEO, the Chief Product Officer, and the head of Marketing. Every week my responsibilities adapted to the changing state of the company. In the second month of the internship, I had the opportunity to experience the soft launch. I got to see all the moving pieces of a startup with help from experienced entrepreneurs. It was evident to me that the experiences I was getting as a part-time intern were not ordinary.
“What do you want to experience?”. The question posed by my supervisor caught me off guard. In my past work experiences, I was the lowest man on the totem pole. Someone who was just there to do repetitive tasks. Having a strong line of communication between me and my supervisor was new to me. I was able to express my interest in certain aspects,explain my work ethic, and provide opinions with the confidence that I would be heard.
When one door closes another one opens. In college, all of my advisors and peers engrained the need for a big corporate internship the summer before your senior year. I was told that if I don’t get a “serious” internship this summer that I will have a hard time getting a real job. But because of the coronavirus, I had to change my plan and in turn, change my outlook. As with most students this year, Covid-19 threw us a curveball. But from the unexpected comes growth and learning that we may not have been looking for. This summer I had the opportunity to grow my experience, knowledge, and outlook. I got to learn in an environment that valued my opinions and work. All things that might not have happened if I interned at a large company. I realized that the pressure I was feeling to get an internship at a big name company was just one path I could choose. There are a million other paths that I could go down, each with their own lessons to teach. As the world continues to change this is something that I should keep in mind, it something we should all remember – flexibility brings opportunity.
The way things have been done in the past means nothing in today’s age. Becoming an adult during a global pandemic requires us to do things differently. I must remind myself to be patient and flexible and that the path that most follow is not the only path.