Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Interning 101- My experience as a Communications Assistant at the YMCA of the GTA

“Just got home from work,” I tell my parents, who associate “work,” with “money”. The concept of working without financial compensation is a bizarre thing to our parents who grew up with multiple job offers right out of college. As a student in a public relations postgraduate program, part of my credit must be filled with an internship - this is a blessing. Just because an internship may not offer financial reward, doesn't mean it won't give you valuable skills to market yourself in the future.

I decided to take an internship that was passed on by Tim, our program coordinator, at the YMCA of the Greater Toronto Area. Some might of been drawn away from the commute to Toronto for this placement, but I thought it would expand my horizons not only professionally (making connections in a different city), but also commuting to Toronto could be something I might have to do when I get a job after school.

The YMCA of GTA has been a great experience so far. Since I have never worked for such a large organization, everything from the large office space to the process of a social media post was new for me. When I arrived on my first day, my desk was set up with my name tag and title, "Communications Assistant", my email was set up and I had a few meeting invitations waiting for me. They made me feel right at home and always understood that it was a lot to take in, and that I never had to feel pressured or nervous. 

One thing to remember when doing an internship is that you are there to not only work, but you are there to learn. Aside from school credit, learning is your only reward so making sure to get real-life job skills is essential to an effective internship. The PR program is great for giving you the knowledge you'll need to work in the industry, but actually being a part of the industry is the best learning you can get. 

For example, Tim will introduce you to remote conferencing tools. On my third day at the Y, I got to sit in on a webinar that included individuals from across the country. Reading about a webinar, and experiencing a webinar are vastly different things, and I was so happy to get that experience at the Y.

I knew my experience at the Y would be great, when my supervisor came and sat with me at lunch on my first day. She asked me about myself, my skills, and told me all the things she wanted me to work on with her. "We're going to get your portfolio looking awesome," she said, which was so refreshing to hear and nice to know that she wanted to help me.

Some advice when looking for an internship: if it seems unprofessional, it most likely is. Finding a placement that understands that your work and your learning need to be equally balanced will make or break a good internship. Time in this industry needs to be well-managed, and the last thing you want to be doing is wasting time with an organization that isn't contributing to your professional development. 

Don't shy away or cringe when you hear the word "internship", there is a reason Tim has included this in the curriculum. It will be highly beneficial when you go job hunting and can show future employers that you have industry skills.

I am fortunate to have, and be able to do an internship with the YMCA, and am looking forward to being part of their social media rebranding.

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