A Job With Training Wheels: Interning at a Startup
By: Sylvia Deyo
If there is one day of work that I feel best captures my internship with Find Your Power it would be one of the last days I was at work before taking a month off for summer break. Ivy (the Founder), another intern named Katie, and I were meeting to discuss the upcoming Poetry Jam event and ended up on the topic of our upcoming movie showing of Embrace. We had been dealing with a very frustrating company for the rights to show and the provision of the film and had recently been told contradicting statements from them. We were scrambling to keepthe showing going but weren’t hearing back from the company. Finally, one of us floated the idea of showing it on our own, without the middleman. We had less than a week to make this happen. Katie was able to get the school she worked at to host the event in their cafeteria. Ivy got to work contacting all the people who had purchased tickets to the event in order to update them on the new plan. Meanwhile, I worked on getting the ticketing to work. This involved using the donation platform I had set the organization up with early in my internship and putting the tickets up on the FYP website. I ended up on the phone with the customer service line for both the website and the donation platform, both ofwhom I had been in constant contact with over the course of the two months of interning. But eventually, we pulled it together, in under 3 hours no less! The showing was a success and helped to get our mission out to potential advocates. I had no idea that the work I did researching and signing up with a donation platform within my first week of work would be useful for event planning and outreach, but that’s what it was like working with FYP.
As the only other full time worker at FYP, my internship was anything but straightforward or linear or one-dimensional. I wore many hats, as they say, and was treated as a capable and intelligent worker, as opposed to other internships that are more focused on teaching than trusting. Every day, the work I did felt vital and necessary. Ivy bounced ideas off of me and listened to my opinions and thoughts, giving them weight in her decision making process. It was the first time I felt less like a student and more like a young professional. It was scary, but also helped me establish my confidence and assuredness in my capability and the contributions I bring with me to the table. I luckily still had my training wheels on though, so if I ever asked a question or was too overwhelmed, Ivy was more than willing to help me out.
This May, I will be graduating college and entering the job world. Without my time at FYP I would not feel as confident in my work and employability as I do. I feel prepared to hold a position within an organization or company and produce worthwhile work and contribute to the mission of the organization. I feel competent enough to enter the job world, but I also feel I can adequately grow and learn from the experience. I am able to be flexible and adaptable, to work with what is needed from me. During my internship with FYP, I expanded upon my strengths and I identified my weaknesses and confronted them in order to grow my capability as a worker.
In past internships, I have been one in a string of interns to hold the position and continue the work of the intern before me. I have interned at a few housing advocacies and research nonprofits in D.C. and one immigration service center in Prague when I studied abroad. Although I have been lucky to have amazing supervisors who wanted to help me learn and grow as much as they wanted my “free labor,” I spent my fair share of time looking at spreadsheets and sending out mailings. At FYP, I continued in the tradition of spreadsheets and mailings, but instead of continuing what interns did in the past, I was the one who initiated the spreadsheets or recommended that we send thank you notes to attendees of our movie event. Additionally, in these past internships, I felt like a shadow to my supervisor, there to observe and offer my help. At FYP, I felt like an employee and a member of the staff. I had my own work that I contributed, and in meetings I wasn’t a silent observer but a participant. By the end of my time with FYP I was even organizing and holding meetings independently to discuss development work and grant applications and I was onboarding other interns. In other words, the difference between FYP and my past internships was initiative. It was both expected and encouraged that I take initiative and “run with” certain ideas or tasks.
More importantly though, FYP allowed me to do work on a mission and issue area that is important to me. I hope to work for women’s rights and human rights in my future career and prior internships were indirectly related to these topics, often simply in the nonprofit sector of human services and advocacy. With my work at FYP I could contribute to a new organization with a vital mission. When I wrote grant applications or sponsorship materials I was learning about a subject that was important to me. What’s more, the people I met through the events we held and working with other interns and volunteers were people like me: passionate about serving underserved and underrepresented populations.