What I Did Last Summer / Internship Insights
With the first semester of my Masters course done and dusted, I decided to put the feelers out and, with any luck, delve into the covert world of summer internships. In my 3 years of undergrad, I had not yet had even one taste of professional experience, so it was high time I sunk my teeth into the hunt. Embracing the Chinese proverb dictating; “the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the second best time is today”, I vanquished the urge to book flights to explore the wide blue yonder, to instead spend hours trawling the University’s careers and employment page.
I found one that was particularly interesting to me- being an events/marketing internship for the Melbourne-based social enterprise The Big Issue.
The Big Issue is predominately known for its street magazine sold by vendors experiencing disadvantage and oppression that prevents them from entering into the regular job market. “Giving people a hand up and not a hand out” underpins TBI’s initiatives, aiming to maximize human well-being and reinvesting profit into the enterprise to facilitate growth. Other TBI programs include: TBI Women’s Subscription Enterprise, Community Street Soccer, The Big Lunch, The Big Idea and TBI Classroom for high school students.
Here is a copy of my ~slightly colloquial~ application letter.
I just stumbled upon your advertised Events/Marketing Assistant for The Big Issue and would absolutely love to be involved in such an inspiring and empowering organization.
I am currently studying a Master of Management in Marketing and both my casual jobs are heavily involved in the events industry. Business degrees are very driven towards working for a multinational organisation where the Holy Grail is to land a plum salary and prestigious title. As much as there is an element of competitive spirit in me that strives for this ‘success’, I would very much like to be involved in trying to alleviate some of the strain felt by marginalized groups in society. I realize my extreme fortune in the privilege I experience and would really like to be involved in empowering those who have been dealt a rough hand (I hope that doesn’t sound patronising).
Communications is where my confidence lies. In my current work I liaise independently with clients, hosting their events and offering assistance where necessary. I have been exposed to a great variety of events with all sorts of demographics.
The Big Issue vendors never fail to put a smile on my face with their cheery greetings and banter as I pass them on my way to university. It is such an inspired cause and I would love to have the opportunity to work with like-minded people whose shared passion drives the success of the initiative.
I would love to chat with you about the volunteering opportunities available and where I can make a valuable contribution to your work. I have attached my CV for your perusal.
To my surprise, I was one of three people fortunate enough to land an interview. I approached it with a casual and conversational attitude, aware of the importance of conveying my personality as well as aligning my experience with the job criteria. To quell my nerves and rekindle a sense of empowerment, I reminded myself that in an interview the employer holds the most power but not all of it,
Low and behold, I landed the internship. Out of over 130 applicants from around the world, I was chosen. To say I was chuffed was an understatement.
Perseverance and a positive mindset pays off.
So, that was it. Summer vaycay would be spent working 7 days a week so I could afford the price of a voluntary internship. Let me just say, the return on the investment of my time was exponential.
For the most part I was helping with the nitty gritty of events detailing including The Big Idea, the Street Football Festival and International Street Paper Vendor Week. I learnt just how much preparation goes on behind the scenes to put a successful event together, whilst gaining great insight into the challenging administrative side of running a not-for-profit. The corporate culture was inclusive and cheerful, with a shared belief that no one works there for the money but rather for the greater purpose.
Every second Friday we would venture through the city to attend the vendor breakfast BBQ and launch of the new issue. Witnessing the relationship dynamics amongst the vendors and TBI staff and the great sense of camaraderie was extremely gratifying and humbling. Engaging in well-humored banter and hearing the vendors’ stories and daily tribulations was a sharp reminder of my enormous privilege.
The most profound lesson I took away from my time at TBI was empathy. So many times I have walked past vendors on the street and looked the other way, feeling awkward that I wasn’t purchasing a magazine. Now I know that buying a magazine isn’t necessarily the most important factor for a vendor, it’s the interaction and connection by being acknowledged and feeling included. TBI vendors experience the oppression and stigma of ‘homelessness’ (whether they are or not) and may consequently feel further removed from those privileged enough to go about a 9-5 corporate job.
I’ve been raised in the bubble wrapped uber-privledged suburbs of Melbourne. I have never been wanting for anything and am lucky enough to be tertiary educated; these experiences are so important to ground you in reality, entirely reshuffling your perspectives and priorities.
An internship is an insight into corporate culture and dynamics as well as an insight and education on the translation of skills learnt at university into practice. There will be the good internships and the less-good internships you’ll learn something from being inserted into both scenarios. Gaining first-hand experience is so important as a student, think of it as a ‘try before you buy’ as you’re not obliged to stay past when you cease to gain value from your position.
Interning at a NFP organization provided me with insight into study-related professions as well as a greater understanding of their role and impact on individual lives.
I could not recommend interning and volunteering highly enough. Go, get some experience; not only will it look great on your CV but the experiences and perspective granted to you will last a lifetime.