Exploring the Wide World of Work

I'm an intern here at Fast Company this summer, doing anything I can to help out around the office while learning the ropes of magazine journalism. This is my first REAL office job — other summers in high school and college I traveled and even taught in a Harlem middle school. I am now beginning to reconsider the preconceptions I had about working in a real office building, logging in my hours, hearing grumbling about budgets and learning how the top people affect little ol' me. All of that happens, just like I imagined. But at FC, instead of being treated like a faceless gopher, everyone's really nice about teaching me along the way.

You never forget your early jobs. Every once in a while you'll see an E! True Hollywood Story or a VH1 Behind the Music and learn that a millionaire celebrity started out busing tables or working in a shrimp factory. I am lucky enough to start my more professional (albeit brief, as I will return to college in the fall) dabbling in an environment that I love, one that actually has something to do with what I see as my career.

For all of you who have children in high school or college, remind them how important it is for them to explore their passions when they have free time. Sure, it looks good on a resume, and these days that's more and more important. But it also allows an interest to grow, contacts to be made, and an incredible opportunity for learning. And its certainly more practical than folding napkins or asking "would you like that Super Sized?"

I'm curious to hear some of your thoughts on summer jobs. Young adults are told now that career exploration is important not for the experience but rather for the resume. Is this healthy? Do you have interns where you work? If so, do you think they will learn anything this summer other than how to pour the boss's coffee?

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  • Donald E. L. Johnson

    I assume you're interning on the editorial side. It would be interesting to see what they have you doing. Are they giving you learning experiences or just clerical tasks? Are they taking you on interviews and allowing you to listen in on phone interviews? Are they asking you to research upcoming articles and interview sources?

    Since FC is monthly and has a tight, focused editorial mission, I suspect your opportunities to write for the mag are limited. And what you need are clips, writing experiences.

    Why not volunteer to write for the blog? Such writing will give you reasons to think about business, writing and business journalism. And you'll take a load off the staff, who probablly consider the blog a pain.

    One way to contribute to the blog is to focus on a specific area that interests you, your editors and your readers. Blogging is both writing interesting pieces and engaging in conversations with commenters.

    Practice asking good questions, moderating interesting discussions and keeping discussions on target.

    If FC doesn't want you to blog because it has other tasks for you to do, blog in your spare time. You have an opportunity to generate some great clips, show the depth of your thinking, learn about business and have some fun.

    At the same time, don't forget to ask to go with the ad sales people as they make their rounds. Sales people become publishers and rule the world, and you may wind up being one of them some day.

  • Paul (from Brand Autopsy)

    Melissa - Welcome to the workin' world! Stuff you do as an intern will help you for the rest of your career. Ask tons of questions. Take on a BIG project. The types of people, situations and conflict that you experience THERE are the same everywhere (just the names / faces change). So if you learn how to work best with those types there - you'll be successful later. Add value - your value. With every project you work on ask "how can I add the brand 'Melissa' to this project?" Pick up a copy of The Unofficial Guide to Power Management. It'll 1/2 make sense to you now, but be totally helpful in the next few years when you're in the work force full time. (It's been one of my secret weapons). Finally... have a blast. If you're not having fun, find a way to make it fun. If that doesn't work - you're not doing the right job for you. Take care!

  • Lauren

    While I think internships are great, and am glad I had the opportunity to not only add potential careers to my list and cross some off during college...I did make the mistake of taking "internships" for the sake of gaining general office experience in high school. In reality, I was just an office clerk in an industry that I had no interest in...I wish I had spent the time having fun and enjoying my summers lifegaurding or being more adventurous. I think the lesson learned is that while internships are great, they are only worthwhile if they really dive deep into a potential career, not if they just give you office experience...in that case, find a job that you will give you fun memories, fun times, and a tan!