MEANINGFUL WORK: MAKING THE MOST OF AN INTERNSHIPHalfway through the second week of my summer internship, I found myself sharing an elevator with a woman in an immaculate pink skirt suit. When the elevator reached my floor, Lynn Dugle, CEO of Engility, complimented my glasses and wished me a good day.
The next time I saw her, I was surrounded by several of the company’s VPs in a large meeting room. I chose a seat on a bench against the farthest wall and clicked my pen, ready to take notes.
“Why don’t you come sit at the table?”
When I looked up, Lynn was smiling and gesturing to the open seat across from her.
At the beginning of my internship, my biggest fear was becoming the coffee run girl, but I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be twiddling my thumbs. Since the beginning, I have been included in meetings and projects, mentored by my managers and taught skills that will carry into my career.<
Making ConnectionsLike many interns, I came to Engility with few professional connections. To help interns grow their networks, Engility provided a mentor program, which kicked off in June and paired interns with mentors to guide and encourage them throughout the summer.
For me, the benefit of the mentor program came in finding someone who cared about my interests and success. The first time I sat down with my mentor, he asked what I wanted to take away from my experience with the company. I admitted that I was looking for a broader understanding of my career choices as someone with a background in English and communications, and he then connected me with people within the company who gave me various perspectives of corporate life.
Hands-On LearningOut of everything my internship had to offer, I most appreciated the opportunity to work within my field of study and see its relevance to a company like Engility. As a technical writing intern, I worked on everything from proposal efforts to communications assignments—like this blog.
The projects that I and the rest of Engility’s interns undertook relied on our textbook knowledge as well as our ability to adapt. Each of my tasks called for on-the-job learning. I was responsible for following directions, asking questions and collaborating with coworkers to get the work done. This kind of experience provided me with new knowledge and a marketable skillset.
Looking to the FutureI have never put a lot of stock in the advice “be yourself”, but the cliché holds a grain of truth when applied to internships. Success relies on several different factors—finding guidance, staying flexible, looking for teachable moments and, most importantly, taking initiative. Even with the resources provided to me during my time with Engility, my internship was only what I made of it. I had to take advantage of the opportunities in front of me. I did, and I grew because of it. If we continue to learn in working environments like Engility, I and students like me will be ready to step into our careers directly after graduation.
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