Reflections from a Net Impact Intern

By: Caroline Kessler | June 5, 2012

Caroline Kessler, one of our intrepid interns, shares some insights as she departs for her next big adventure. Caroline's work as our Communications Intern included getting our Leading Business e-news off to 30,000+ members every two weeks, keeping track of Net Impact coverage in the news, manning our social media channels, and otherwise tirelessly supporting our marketing staff - all while bringing an awesome sense of humor and attitude to our San Francisco headquarters.

While my time as Net Impact's Communications Intern is now coming to an end, it's also the start of something new for me; I'll be participating in the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets in just a couple of days. It seems to be that time of year for everyone - new graduates are hustling off to first jobs, others are starting internships or fellowships, or some other type of ship. So this seems like the perfect time to share some tips and tricks for those entering a new office or position.

I've had a wide range of work experiences, from selling newspaper subscriptions to teaching art at a sleep-away camp to writing grants at a Polish nonprofit. But I won't sugar-coat it: entering a new environment can be scary, where there might be office politics to avoid and new technologies to learn. Here are some things I've picked up along the way, and especially at Net Impact:

Keep learning once you leave the classroom.

When I saw Basic HTML and light CSS in the job description for this position, I wondered how I'd pick it up. But I've learned enough bits of French, Tamil, and Polish in the past year that I thought, what's one more language? So I started studying, primarily through online tutorials. I still have a lot to learn but it's been really stimulating to learn something new, even though I'm not in school anymore. So try a new skill: check out Codecademy if you want to learn to code or Mark Bittman if you want to learn how to cook everything, or anything else that strikes your fancy. Just keep learning.

Leave the office for lunch.

Sounds pretty obvious, right? But you'd be surprised how absorbed you can get after staring at spreadsheets and HootSuite all morning (and social media and press tracking only represented a fraction of my daily to-do list as the Communications Intern). Stretching your legs will give you a chance to regroup, to remember the world is bigger than your desk, and see strange things like the rocket ship near the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

Work with what you have.

After I graduated last December, I returned home for a few weeks, and then promptly moved to a city that I had never even visited before. But I knew that there was a large number of alums from my university here in San Francisco (it's like a mass migration from Pittsburgh to the Bay Area, actually), so I started connecting with those folks first. I've since branched out to other communities, but it's been great to lean on people I already had some connection with.

Read voraciously.

You may not know what you're going to do next, but exploring and reading helps - a lot. Some of what I read was directly related to my day job, helping me get to know the sustainable business and CSR space. And some of it was not so directly related, like Chris Guillebeau's blog on how to live unconventionally, and San Francisco news. This has given me fodder for my own blog and Twitter feed, ideas for what I might do next, and a sense of my new city.

Take one small risk a day.

Do things that seem strange or uncomfortable or weird, because they will be great stories and will teach you something along the way. At one of Net Impact's staff adventures we went to The Crucible, where I got closer to molten-hot metal than I've ever been. Even if your internship doesn't offer you such random opportunities, you can make your own. I'm not a huge techie, but I recently visited Noisebridge, a technical-creative cooperative, with a friend. Or try exploring a new neighborhood without a map...you never know what you might find.

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