On not being afraid.
I’m the kind of person who always needs to be busy. At previous internships, it seemed as if I was a freelance consultant – my supervisors would call me to come in to work whenever they needed help with their website or computer. I still ended up coming in a couple times a week, but it never really felt consistent.
My internship now is the complete opposite. Even with the 40 hours a week that I spend in the office, there is still so much work to do. Whether its contacting District Attorneys and Defense Counsels, pairing up mediators with prospective parties, picking up cases from the Criminal Court and following up with mediators on their cases, more things sprout up.
At the moment, I’m working on helping set up a new organization called the Restorative Justice League. I am making surveys, taking notes, and hopefully volunteering this Thursday at a Restorative Justice conference. This new organization is very much in its early stages, so more information to come about that.
Last Friday, I got to sit in on a mediator round table. It consisted of a bunch of criminal mediators, who take on the cases I pick up from the Criminal Court. When you’re a facilitator of the mediation process, you seem to forget that the parties who show up to mediation are going through something terrible in their lives. Many of them are juveniles who are caught in the midst of an emotional exchange. Others are family members. Others are friends. Somehow, something happened which ended up pushing one party into the cruel criminal justice system where they are seen as a number and not as an individual who has fears, hopes and goals. These mediators see these people for who they are – they try to uncover emotions and problems that led to their arrest. It was amazing to sit at the round table and listen to them suggest ways to get through to the parties and to look for ways they could be more accessible as mediators. It helped remind me that there are people who are good and caring in the world. Sometimes, being caught up in the busy and impersonal NYC life will make you forget that.
On another note, here is some advice for Dickinson students looking for internships:
1. Don’t be afraid – that is probably the most important piece of advice that I can think of. I’m the kind of person who always second guesses my self. Whenever I see a position I’m interested in, my first reaction is excitement, quickly followed by self-doubt. Common thoughts include “what if my GPA isn’t good enough? What if I don’t have enough experience? I’m kind of shy…will that get in the way of me getting this internship?” I realized later that it doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or if you don’t have a perfect GPA and a stellar resume. What matters is that you show initiative and you act excited for your position.
2. Don’t take no for an answer – by this, I don’t mean harass your employer. Here I will insert a (hopefully) helpful anecdote: when I applied for my job at the Dickinson Magazine, I asked myself all the questions above. I knew that I loved writing, but I was not an English major; I had never had a journalism job or internship. All I knew was that I was a creative person and that I wanted to work there. I emailed the editor and added that I had a lot of art experience if she was interested in that. She emailed back and said they were looking for someone with a writing background. Disheartened, I exited out of the email with no hope of getting the position. Then I realized…I may not have a writing background but previous professors and teachers had commented on my writing strength. It was a catch 22. How could I get a job that would give me writing experience if I needed to have writing experience to get the job in the first place? The next day I went to the Communications building to see if I could talk to her in person. I happened to catch her as she was returning to her office and I confidently reintroduced myself and told her that I would really like an opportunity to meet with her and interview for the position. She was shocked by my incentive, but after the interview process I got the job!
Another short anecdote re: catch 22. When I interned for NYPI during my winter break, I directly inquired about this position. My supervisor initially seemed interested but then realized that I had no legal knowledge or background, which was something she looked for in a competitive applicant. Again, I pointed out that this internship would be a perfect way to get this legal knowledge. She eventually agreed, and here I am sitting here now on a break, writing my success story!
3. Remember your strengths – I may not be the smartest person on the planet, but I am extremely dedicated and passionate. I love learning. I love being good at what I do. Maybe it will take me a couple days or weeks to get the hang of things, but eventually I will and I know I will be good at it…because being good is important to me. I used to get upset by the fact that it took me a little longer to get things than my peers or coworkers. It took me a while to realize that that may not be the most important thing in getting an internship or even being good at what you do.