Three Life Lessons from Humanities for Life

world globe on a deskIt’s no secret that if you’re going into a creative career, you might have a hard time finding and securing an internship. These programs have always been competitive, but throw in a never-ending pandemic which leaves you with no network connections and bare-essentials equipment, and it gets even harder. And of course, it surely doesn’t help that most internships in this field are unpaid. U of R saw this underfunded internship scarcity, so they  made their own.

The Humanities For Life (HFL) Internship Program offers social good and creative-based internships at nonprofits in the Rochester area, funded by a $5,000 stipend for each student. If you’re anything like me – hungry to create, wanting to exercise the skills you’ve been cultivating at UR (and learning new ones) and wanting your summer experience to be funded, this program is a great opportunity for you to check out.

This past summer, I participated in the program as an Audio Technician and Videography Intern for Girls Rock! Rochester. GRR is a nonprofit dedicated to using music as a vehicle for personal growth and positive change in girls, women, and the LGBTQ+ community (hello, intersectionality!). In addition to my internship, I attended Greene Center programming that included an intern networking night and four employer panels. During each of the panels, we heard from the leaders of participating organizations to learn about how they got into nonprofit work. Here were some of my main takeaways from this summer:

1. Never undervalue soft skills

This philosophy is straight from the founder of Girls Rock! Rochester, Kaci Smith: You can teach someone how to use a new piece of software, how to make a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel or how to set up gear, but life skills — like how to respect someone’s pronouns — are not so easily taught. Similarly, you’re less likely to be hired if employers don’t see you as a candidate who can think critically or collaborate effectively on a team. Hard skills can be taught, but interpersonal skills can’t be so easily or quickly developed.

2. This is your future network

You’re developing your network every single day, and it pays to make good connections. When you meet someone in a field that you’re interested in, ask about their projects and be willing to chat about yours (past, present, and future ones). Inquire about their background, their education and story. Be open to their advice, regardless of whether you feel it applies at that specific moment. Trust me, it will come in handy. Between staff and volunteers (and even some of their family members), I’ve already added many people to my professional network.

3. Be the Swiss Army Knife

With non-profit work, adaptability is essential; often, you have to juggle multiple projects at once. This kind of work is for the swiss army knives out there, who have skills in all sorts of areas. Over the course of the summer, I learned how to be exactly that. I was the pre-production storyboarder, videographer, editor, colorist, graphics designer, audio engineer, closed and open captioner, stop-motion photographer, creative director, and much more. There are about a hundred titles I might have earned this summer. Never in my life had I attempted stop motion animation, but on my very first day my supervisor shared with me an idea that inspired her, and within five days I was able to make her vision a reality. Being in a position where you are the expert instead of a small fish in a big corporate pond helps you grow as you practice flexibility and use time and resources wisely. It also allows you to grow as an artist. Finally, always be open to testing out a new skill — you might just excel at it and be the missing piece that the organization needs.

I was very fortunate to gain firsthand experience of the remarkable and rewarding work that non-profit organizations do for the Rochester community, and I encourage you (especially the creatives & activists out there) to apply for this summer program. If you are looking for more information, visit the Humanities For Life Program page on the Humanities Center website or schedule a 1:1 appointment with a Greene Center Advisor to discuss the application process.

By Grace Stensland ('23)
Grace Stensland ('23) Peer Career Advisor