This summer has been a great summer for me. I have very much enjoyed the journey that this summer has been for me. A majority of this journey is centered around my internship experience at the All Stars Project. I was challenged daily, building my leadership skills in many ways. Over the summer, I have developed my ability to speak publicly, to facilitate workshops, to network, and to act as an aid to my co-workers. All of these skills help to make me a more well-rounded and developed individual, which is what the All Stars Project is all about. It amazes me that All Stars is a place that facilitates growth so much, that even those who just work and volunteer there have that experience. It was great to be apart of various teams that work to bring this growth and development into New York City, giving it to all kinds of people. The wide-range of support in addition to the partnerships we have within various communities like the one we have with the New York City Police Department is a testament to all of the great work that we do, which I would like to acknowledge again. Thank to the career center at Dickinson, for helping me fund this amazing experience. Thank you to all of the staff at the All Stars Project, all of which have pushed me to stretch myself in new ways this summer. Thank you to all the amazing people I have met through All Stars. Lastly, thank you to anybody else who may be reading this blog. You are all appreciated.
The internship grant has given me the opportunity to explore a possible career path. Before starting my internship at the All Stars Project, I had no idea what it was like to work in the non-profit sector. My goal for my internship was to determine whether working in the non-profit sector was something that I would like to pursue. Throughout my internship, I learned that this goal was a large one, and one that I probably would not be able to accomplish. I have gained valuable work experience; experience that I am sure will aid me in making a decision about a career in the future. But I found that trying to determine exactly what my career path will be before the start of my sophomore year was a bit of a nonsensical goal. I have three more years of classes and experience that I believe will ultimately lead me to where I need to be. However, I am positive that my internship at the All Stars has provided me with an experience that will shape the career decisions I make in the future. My internship has allowed me to experience the culture of a non-profit, and it differs greatly from that of a job in the private sector. For example, people that I worked with at the All Stars Project had seemed to all do multiple jobs. The do both the behind the scenes work and the hands-on work of the programs that they coordinate and manage. It seems to me that the ability to both manage and actively participate in the production of a program is what most of the people at All Stars find most fulfilling, understandably so, they get impact people on the daily basis. I am unsure of what it is that I want to pursue as a career path, but I know that I want to impact people on the daily basis, like the amazing staff at the All Stars Project.
Today I had my first committee meeting. The committee is for the Phat Friends Award, an award that the All Stars gives out annually. The award is a celebration of community leaders all of the New York City area, specifically those that work to help youth. Although very few people I’ve met do non-profit work for recognition, The All Stars Project realizes how important it is to recognize people who have been doing amazing work to change their communities. Said recognition often helps to inspire others to try and create change, like we do at the All Stars Project, and giving people a platform to share their stories is extremely important. As a committee member, I have been entrusted with an important role. The committee and I will be choosing which six people, out of hundreds of qualified people, will receive the award this year. My job entails sifting through hundreds of nomination letters and reading about the work the so many people are doing in their communities. I have never sat on a committee like this, but I assume that it will be extremely difficult to narrow it down. The award ceremony is in the fall, which means we have a relatively short amount of time to narrow down the applications, interview applicants, and then finally reveal our formal nominations. As the committee we also play a fairly big role in producing the ceremony. This is all an incredibly new experience for me, and I am very excited to play such an active role in honoring people who have devoted their lives to community development.
Although my internship grant has been extremely helpful in regards to funding my summer, it has given me the means to explore a possible career path. My internship experience with All Stars has really allowed me to delve into the behind the scenes work of a non-profit organization. It has also given me the opportunity to learn more about programs offered at All Stars that I wasn’t familiar with. One of these programs is Operation Conversation: Cops and Kids. Operation Conversation: Cops and Kids is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a program that allows police officers and youth to sit down and have conversation. At first the program might not sound as radical as it actually is. The program was founded after the shooting of Sean Bell, an unarmed black man killed by police the day before his wedding. If you have been keeping up with the news even a little bit, then you are aware that we are hearing a very similar story line often. These occurrences create tension between police officers and young people who live in the communities in which they police. Cops and Kids is the leading program in the country that has been trying to address these tensions. The program uses theatre games to create safe space among police officers and young people, both groups often feeling extremely uncomfortable, usually f or two reasons. First, because they are in a room with people who there are direct tension with, at the beginning of the workshop, it is very much a split room. Secondly, because they feel absolutely ridiculous playing theatre games. The latter usually helps to melt away the initial tension and silence in the room. Then, the two sides have open and honest conversations about how the feel about the other group. This workshop does not fix everything, but it slowly changes the perceptions that each group has of the other, and is so doing, works to create a relationship that is, in the very least, not as tense.
I find that it is hard to build relationships with co-workers and supervisors. Personally, I think the difficulty lies in trying to remain professional while actually getting to know a person. Should you only talk about work? How much can you ask them about their lives? Because my goal is to leave a really good impression on everybody in my internship site, these questions are really important. The All Stars Project is the kind of space that makes building relationships easy though, so I have not had much trouble. There is always tons of work to be done, and more often than not, it is a team effort. When you spend extended period of time with your co-workers, the relationship develops organically.
But just in case things are different at your internship site, I also have a couple of tips on how to make building relationships easier.
I like to think of myself of a very friendly and inviting person, but I am also naturally very serious. I don’t typically walk around smiling, but I learned that just smiling at someone makes a big difference, you seem more approachable, and people want to be around you.
Get Coffee with a Supervisor
I think that networking is the most important part of the internship experience. If you want to build connections, you have to put yourself out there. Ask a co-worker or supervisor if they would like to get coffee with you, more often than not, they’ll accept.
Use your people skills
Your supervisors and co-workers are just people, and its important to remember this when trying to build a relationship with them. Think about how you usually make friends. One of my strong suits is humor, and if I find an opportunity to tell a joke, then I do. It makes both parties more comfortable. Use whatever you are good at your advantage.
The highlight of this passed week was a Development Coach Training event that I did at The All Stars Project. A development coach is exactly what it sounds like, a person helping another person to continue growth and development. The All Stars Project is all about brining people who don’t usually go together in the same room. For example, one of our programs, The Development School for Youth puts powerful executives in a room with inner city kids, and both groups learn from each other. Naturally we have other programs that replicate this kind of “mix-match” interaction. Are development coaches are typically white middle-class or wealthy people, but the people who come to All Stars looking for coaching are more often than not less fortunate individuals, most of whom are people of color. So where exactly do I come in?
I trained the development coaches. Not just me, myself and some peers, with the help of co-founder of the All Stars, Dr. Fulani. At the All Stars we acknowledge how closely related race, poverty, and underdevelopment are. When training people who were presumably unaware of some of these realities, it was our job to educate them while also sharing our lived experiences. Conversations about race are often some level of uncomfortable for most people, especially people who don’t often (if ever) have to think about race. But this is what the All Stars is all about, having conversations even if they are difficult to have. Public speaking is difficult, but it’s significantly harder when you are asked to share things about yourself. But I did it, we all did! We worked extremely hard so that the coaches were properly equipped to have hard conversations with other people, and more importantly, be able to work through being uncomfortable and forge a genuine connection with people who are different from them. It was a great experience!
Networking events are a great part of the internship experience; last week we had an amazing networking event/fundraiser. I am interning at The All Stars Project, a non-profit organization that focuses on helping people, specifically inner city youth, to become more developed. Part of why networking events are so great is because I have the opportunity to speak to people about how amazing the work we do at the All Stars Project is. But networking isn’t any easy task, I have come to learn that it is a skill, and like any other skill, you have to practice to become good at it. Honestly, it can be a very intimidating experience. In my case, I was in a room with people who are potential donors, and my task was to speak to them; this is a lot easier said then done. But I learned that it wasn’t as scary as I imagined it to be either. Firstly, people come prepared to network. They expected to have their conversations (politely) interrupted, in fact that is what they are waiting for. This was helpful for me, I never felt like a person I spoke with was uninterested in my conversation. Secondly, I learned that after exchanging names and personal connection to the organization, it’s easiest to ask the person questions about themselves, chances are, they’ll talk. The last, and possibly my most important lesson of the night was, its ok to end the conversation. Whether it was an awkward encounter that you quickly wish to forget, or a great conversation that’s starting to die down, people always react kindly to “it was great speaking with you, enjoy the rest of your tonight.” Even brief encounters can make really lasting impressions if they are done right, and because of this, there isn’t as much pressure on you to be great at networking. However, while you’re doing it, you are definitely getting better at it!
The first week of an internship comes with an incredible amount of changes. You have to make sure you are dressed properly, make sure you are on time, eat breakfast before you leave home, and after you get to work, your day has just started. With all of these things to manage, it’s highly likely that you’ve had a bad day, and if are like me and haven’t had one yet, sit tight, one is coming. But this isn’t a bad thing. I hope to provide some tips on how to get through a bad day while working in the office. The key to surviving a bad day at work is performance.
Picture your bad day, maybe there was bad weather, you were particularly stressed out, or maybe, you just woke up in a bad mood. You really don’t want to be at work interacting with others, but the connections you make with your co-workers is arguably the most important part of your internship. As a summer intern you have a very limited amount of time to make a really good impression on the people you work with, frankly, you can’t afford to have a bad day. But here you are, having that bad day that you cant afford to have.
So, how do you make it through? Performance. You have to perform as if you aren’t having a bad day. At first, it may sound obvious, but I promise it is actually a really helpful tip. If you are having a bad day, then it is necessary that you take on the character of “The Amazingly Engaged and Thorough Intern.” You are probably this intern on all other days, and bad day is not an excuse to stop being this intern. Taking on this character, though, forces you continue this performance and allows you to remain consistent. If we are being honest, you may not be as engaged as you are on a normal day, and that is ok. Consider a scenario in which you are in an important meeting on a bad day, it may be hard for you to focus and you find yourself bored in this meeting. If you remain yourself in this scene, you will be noticeably unengaged. But if you realize that you have to preform, you keep your head up, make eye contact with the speakers, nod your head, and take notes, you appear as if you are engaged. This appearance makes all of the difference. Keep in mind, this tip only works if you really become an actor, separating yourself from your bad day, and really becoming another person who isn’t having a bad day. If you perform well enough, you might find that you actually start to have a good day.
Now it might sound as if I am encouraging you to speed through your internship only appearing to be engaged without actually being engaged. This is NOT what I am saying. It is your job to be engaged, and performance allows you be engaged on days when its extremely difficult for you to be. Using performance is not accepting excuses from yourself; regardless of your personal situation, you must remain professional. Performance can help you get through that horrible day, without anyone noticing that you were having a bad day in the first place. Get through this day, and tomorrow will be a better one.