Friday, July 9, 2010

Internships at the MF

Part of my role as Director of Education here at the Mattress Factory involves coordinating internships. This is great because I have the unique opportunity to meet and get to know many young students as they assemble a professional pathway or imagine their post-graduation role within the world. For some, an internship can give insight into what it is they are passionate about and how to translate what they love into what they do. For others, an internship can be a stepping-stone or a bullet point on their resume. An internship can show an individual as much about what it is they do NOT want to do, as it can about what they do want to do. No matter the outcome, an internship can be a life-altering experience that forces a change of major, change of perception, or perhaps just a change of scenery.

Anymore, I find that college students want bigger, longer, and more intensive internships—they want to stay for two (or three) semesters instead of one, want to spend 20 (or 40) hours at the MF, instead of 12. This new trend is so mutually beneficial. The individual gets the inside scoop and is folded into the full-time staff as an integral member. The organization gets a whole lot more work done!

Ok, it’s more than that: student interns come loaded with freshly honed, cutting edge skills. For those of us who have been sitting behind desks for a few years, it’s an opportunity to learn from the student and see contemporary points of view. We can ask questions like, “How would you organize this information?” “What tools would you use to convey this message?” “How would you prioritize this to-do list?” “Can you help me decide if we’ve been successful?”

At the Mattress Factory, we are lucky to have interns from all over the world -- from local universities, and from universities far and wide. We have enjoyed working with interns with a range of ages and interests. Some have master’s degrees, some don’t yet have high school diplomas. An individual’s unique perspective and experiences are what draws us to them (and probably vice versa).

Having an intern means developing projects, asking and answering a million questions, giving advice, and in the end it means saying goodbye to somebody who you probably grew to depend on. In many cases, it can even mean saying goodbye to a friend. But, in the BEST cases, it means watching somebody take off into a wild world of choices and opportunities, hopefully made a little easier by having had a fruitful experience working at the Mattress Factory.

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