When the pandemic first hit, I never thought that I’d be able to be a part of the Rochester community without in-person activities. I also didn’t think that I’d end up interning in the nonprofit sector. I applied to be a Grants Research Intern at 540WMain through the Humanities for Life program at the U of R. Fortunately, Mr. Calvin Eaton offered me the position, and I started my internship on June 7, 2021 for 10 consecutive weeks.
At 540WMain, I worked on facilitating eLearning classes around anti-racist education (a crucial endeavor in this time of race-based terrorism). Through writing, editing, and applying to grants over the summer, I worked on programs dedicated to causes such as promoting social and environmental justice, and revitalizing neighborhoods. Along the way, I honed some unexpected professional skills:
My internship allowed me to make use of both my English (Creative Writing) major and my Legal Studies minor. I didn’t only learn the ropes of running a small nonprofit, but I also enhanced my writing skills through my extensive grant writing tasks. If you only apply for internships in your major, you might be missing out on a beneficial learning experience that emphasizes critical thinking, analysis, and cross-departmental problem solving. Because my internship was virtual, I got to work in areas I was interested in beyond my duties and responsibilities, and this helped me increase my knowledge in fields I wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
Since the pandemic shifted many workplaces in the digital direction, the face of strategic planning changed as well. There are now more ways to focus energy and resources and ensure that the goals you’re working towards are met. For me, that meant more time to spend on collaborative projects and brainstorming new ideas. I had time to truly get to know my employers and pitch in when it came to planning what comes next.
One of the advantages of working remotely is the flexibility you have with your schedule. Aside from checking in with your colleagues for meetings and events, you can find a work-life balance in ways that an in-person internship falls short of. For example, you can save the time that you’d normally spend commuting every day to have a longer lunch break. You can also switch it up and get work done in cafes, take a short walk, or have a snack in the park, all while managing to get your work done on time. Additionally, the way you begin to approach your work shifts from completing one task at a time to multitasking because having flexibility means that you can do things at your own pace.
This last skill is a combination of all the above. It’s a common misconception that creativity is limited to creative fields like the performing arts. In my internship experience, I learned that being creative is a willingness to adapt to your circumstances and find innovative ways to complete tasks. Adopting an out-of-the-box mindset comes with ease when you have a virtual internship because on some days, everything can be so up in the air. During those moments, it’s important to take a deep breath and come up with a more efficient approach.
All in all, my internship experience unlocked a wide variety of unexpected skills that I’ll treasure for the rest of my professional career. I’m grateful to have a team of mentors who truly take the time to guide me in getting the most out of my internship, and they are always there to answer any questions I may have along the way. Embrace the unexpected!