To be perfectly honest, before I started working at Stern Strategy Group this summer I had no idea what the company did. Okay, I had a vague idea. I knew it was a communications firm that represented thought leaders and organizations who want to make a difference in the world. But I had no idea what that would mean for me, an intern working there for a short five weeks, and thought I’d never get the chance to find out what the company offers clients. I figured I’d be getting coffee, making copies, filing and doing a number of other tedious cliché intern tasks: after all, I had heard about many other internship experiences. However, after interning with Stern Strategy Group, I am happy to say I have no idea how the copier works, because I never needed to learn.
No one asked me to fetch coffee and I haven’t had a chance to be bored. Instead, I actually learned firsthand what it is that Stern Strategy Group does, why and how they do it, and who they do it for – because I’ve spent my time on projects that actually require thought, skill, creativity and trust. I believe a big component of why students typically view internships with low expectations is because, more often than not, interns are given the most insignificant and uncreative tasks – a colossal waste of time on both sides.
My generation has been trained to believe you should take any internship that comes your way – big company or small, paid or unpaid, two-hour commute or not – for the experience to get a “real” job. But are these interns getting any real experience or anything of value? I’ve been very fortunate at Stern to be entrusted to conduct important research that informs client strategy, develop – and help implement – social media marketing ideas, and actually participate in important meetings. I’ve learned I actually like working, and it’s possible to be excited about waking up at 6 a.m. (even if an hour commute does take some getting used to). I worked for an employer who actually wanted me there, instead of just barely tolerating my existence. I’ve not only had the opportunity to work on meaningful projects, but colleagues have taken the time to talk with me about my career path and offer invaluable advice.
Maybe my experience here was an anomaly, but it shouldn’t be. “Internship” has almost become a dirty word amongst my generation. I know more people than I can count who are still working at sleep-away camps during the summer because they’re terrified to jump into an internship where they believe they have nothing to gain but carpal tunnel and some barista skills. If more companies took the time to realize they’re hiring bright young individuals willing to give as much as – if not more than – they get, companies and interns alike would benefit greatly. Now I not only know what working at a communications firm is like and the critical role communications plays in any business setting, but I have gained experience and skills I can leverage in my future endeavors to become part of the “real world.” And, I’m hungry for more experiences, responsibility and opportunities to prove myself. As I take away so much from my short time here at Stern Strategy Group, I can’t help but also feel that I left a little something good behind as well. And if that’s not the point of hiring interns, then what is?