You’ve put in your time, you’ve slaved tirelessly at stacks of papers and seemingly endless amounts of homework that professors have piled on… and you’ve paid your dues. Everyone tells you that once you’ve finished school, you’re ready to take on the world, jump right in, and get your dream job. You feel entitled to it – you’re ready to make this fantasy a reality. Now, let me tell you why you’re wrong.
Fellow 20-somethings, I’ve been there. Less than a year ago I was standing right where you are – on the verge of entering the professional world. I, too, felt that I was ready to take on the world (no doubt egged on by well-meaning professors), that I could enter into almost any job in my field and hit a home run. Then, I accepted my first residency.
So you’re probably asking, Why a residency?
Nothing I learned in any class I took at school could compare to the actual work I was doing in my job. It was like my world was turned upside down once I started my first residency.
Stepping into an office was a culture shock and, soon after, I entered into another residency, then yet another, and every office I stepped foot in had a culture of its own, presented its own set of challenges, forced me to push myself in ways that my previous work hadn’t.
In my experience, the best kinds of residencies are the ones where you know what you’re looking for going into them. Last summer, I got the opportunity to be a resident with the For the City Network, which was by far my favorite and most valued experience.
It showed me a lot about the importance of picking the right residency and what questions to ask when looking for a residency, and, as this was my fourth residency, I felt I knew a good amount on the subject by this time.
Here are the questions you should ask when picking an residency or internship:
What leaders am I going to be following?
My favorite part of a residency at For the City was by far the leaders that I got to learn from. As I continued to sit in on meetings with directors and key leaders in the organization, I was able to grow and develop in my own work. Everything that they taught me that summer has carried over into the work I’m doing right now and has improved my overall work ethic.
Does the job description match what I’m looking for?
You don’t know what you like yet or what you’re good at. As 20-somethings, we know what we’re interested in, yes, but we don’t always know what we want in the long run (let’s be honest). A lot of times I think that’s just because we haven’t been exposed to it yet.
Be willing to wear multiple hats, try different jobs, talk to people doing different things in the company. That summer, I was able to be a social media manager, journalist, marketing associate, and assistant photographer.
I was able to try jobs that I never in a million years would have seen myself doing and found out that I actually liked doing them. I learned that I am capable of doing a whole lot more than I ever thought with my Psychology degree.
Are they passionate about the same things I am?
At all my other residencies, even when I enjoyed the work I was doing, I soon realized that I was not passionate about the same things my coworkers were. When I came to For the City, I soon learned that passion has to drive the work that we do.
As I began working towards the goal of seeing restoration in the city of Austin, with like-minded people who were passionate about seeing the same thing, it was easy to come to work everyday. Meetings no longer meant long hours of sitting in a room, listening to someone drawn on about something I had no real interest in. It changed everything.
Although some may look at being 20-something as a curse, especially in the workforce as it suggests inexperience, I’m here to tell you that it is actually a blessing. I urge you to take advantage of the gift of being able to run after whatever it is you’re passionate about.
You have nothing tying you down or holding you back. Don’t let this time be wasted. A residency is a great way to find out how your passions and your career can fit together.
You’re probably thinking, that all sounds great, but what do I do when I actually get the job? The role of a resident is a unique role in any company and presents its own opportunities for you to take advantage of. Looking back, there are a lot of things I wish I would have known and done differently during my time at For the City.
Here’s what to do once you’ve got the job:
Remind yourself that you do not know everything.
I know, I know. You were an A+ student, you made good grades, studied hard, aced all of your exams, but this isn’t school. It’s an entirely new experience – enter into it with a humble spirit. Don’t come into it thinking that you’re going to turn the company upside down with all of your ideas – you don’t even know the company well enough to implement any changes yet.
Be bold, but teachable.
Take risks and work on networking. If there’s someone you see that you think you can learn from or who you admire, ask to sit down and talk with them. This goes hand and hand with being teachable. Take a risk and ask the founder of the company to chat with you about your major, your future, your hopes, your aspirations. In my experience, they’d be more than happy to tell you what they know.
No matter how smart you are, experience means a lot in the professional world. You have a sacred opportunity to be thrown into an office with a whole lot of people who have been working at this a lot longer than you have. Learn from them.
Remind yourself that this isn’t forever.
Relish it. Never again will you be thrown into an environment where you get to learn from so many different people.
Guest post by Kelly Jones