BY: MARYBETH LILLY
When I pictured my career in the “real world,” I had always pictured myself walking through New York City, ready to take the world by storm as the real-world Claire Underwood to start my own nonprofit by 25 and eradicate water contamination worldwide. Fast forwarding to college when the “real world” had suddenly become a reality, I knew I had to think about the future with a little more certainty and a few more realistic goals.
At first, I thought all of my internship experience had to be directly related to my field of study or sustainability analytics, but I knew after one interview with the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the B~STEM Project that the sincerity and passion of their mission was something I wanted to be a part of as a Business Development and Community Outreach intern.
Despite my initial hesitation, my experience with B~STEM Project was instrumental in both my personal and professional growth. This internship will remain one of my most rewarding college experiences, but here are just a few of the lessons I learned along the way:
1.College is a time for exploration.
College is one of the few times in life that every possibility is open to you. By saying yes to every opportunity available, life has a way of opening doors you never knew possible. I had never given much thought of women in STEM and business fields, but as an aspiring woman a primarily male-dominated field, I quickly learned that education and access to resources is vital to the success of every individual, community program and even private industry.
2.Internships are so much more than just busywork.
Many friend who intern spend their days making copies, sitting in silently on countless team meetings, or filling lunch orders. At B~STEM Project I was given responsibility and meaningful tasks, not busywork. I created program outlines for the organization’s first sponsored event, a film festival in honor of Women’s History Month that celebrated female content creators and their indelible impact on the film and media industries. While the planning for this event was a collaborative effort made possible by countless individuals, I always felt as though my work was valued.
3. Everyone is a potential connection—so network!
One of the most important skills I learned was the importance of effectively networking. When working with start-up organizations, you come in contact with all types of individuals and organizations. While my internship with B~STEM Project lasted a finite time, each person I connected with had the potential to be a future mentor, employer, or resource. Keeping a broad mindset will help you get the most out of your experience.
4. Not every job will be your future career, but it will help you get there.
Not every internship or job will be a perfect fit but each will contribute to your experiences and marketable skills. Some days at B~STEM Project were harder than others, but nothing was more rewarding than when I felt like I accomplished something. That feeling of self-satisfaction and meaning is indescribable and something I will look for in future positions and my eventual career.
Ten years from now, I’m not going to remember every class I attended or every email I sent for various internships. What I will remember is the people with whom I formed connections, the technical skills I learned along the way, and the tremendous personal growth through these experiences. If I have one suggestion for you, it would be to always say yes. Say yes to the internship, say yes to the new experience, say yes to a challenge. You never know what will ignite the spark inside you and change your life.
Marybeth Lilly is a sophomore Energy & Environmental Policy and Economics double major with a minor in Organizational and Community Leadership from South Jersey. She is currently the Chief Administrative Officer of her sorority Kappa Alpha Theta and a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. When she’s not in the classroom, MB can be found scouring Main Street for her next cup of coffee or pretending she’s funny on her blog. Feel free to email her, tweet her @MarybethNLilly or connect on LinkedIn!