I was a 30 year-old intern.
I know, right?
But that’s not a bad thing. My internship in the DOORS program at Leggett & Platt was a game-changer.
Interns at Leggett don’t fetch coffee and aren’t expected to just hang around and learn by watching others work. Instead, DOORS connects students with opportunities to develop as professionals in the real world. DOORS lets interns do, y’know, actual work. They get to work on projects that are making a difference for the company.
During my internship, I worked with the Talent Management team, a group in HR that helps the company with everything from hiring to succession planning. The team actually created the DOORS program a few years ago — so not only did I participate in the program as an intern, I helped manage it!
Besides my work with Doors, I spent several months researching talent development, immersing myself in HR theory and practice (watch out, Toby, I’m coming for your job). That research combined with my experience taught me four ways to find a game-changing opportunity—whether it’s an internship, your first job, or even a career change.
1) Look for something that you can envision doing long-term.
This might seem obvious, but the average workplace is brimming with people who settled into a role just because it was available, not because it was a good fit. We all have chapters of our lives where we have to “make do,” but you don’t have to make a career out of it! Find something that truly engages you and pursue it. It might not be your dream job of becoming the next Indiana Jones (Chris Pratt is first in line for that gig), but it should be something that you find fulfilling and that you have the capacity to mentally show up for day after day.
2) Look for culture that “clicks.”
No one likes to feel like the odd woman out. If you feel extremely out of place in your job, you’ll eventually be miserable. When you interview for a new role, pay attention to how comfortable you are with your potential boss and coworkers. If you operate on completely different wavelengths, take that into consideration before moving forward.
3) Ask for specific information about the role you’ll fill.
A lot of organizations think, “Hey! We stay busy! Let’s hire an intern!” but never plan much beyond that. Then, when a real live person shows up asking about the expectations for their role, things get messy if the manager never outlined a job plan. When talking to a potential employer, ask for details about the role you’ll fill and projects you’ll tackle.
4) Look at Leggett & Platt!
Okay, consider this a shameless plug. Leggett offers a diverse range of opportunities and constantly looks for people who fit the culture. The same ideas drive both DOORS and the Talent Management team: attract and retain the best and brightest.
My internship plugged me into a team of talented and welcoming coworkers. It also offered specific direction for my future. I’m no longer a generic MBA candidate; instead, I sharpened my focus by developing genuine prospects for future employment. When I entered the Doors at Leggett, I walked into a world of opportunity.
About the Author
I don’t “sit still” very well. I’m always looking for a good challenge or adventure. That drive has spurred me to try all kinds of things: spending a few years doing non-profit work, going back to school to pursue my MBA, signing up for CrossFit, running my first half-marathon*, and even applying for my internship at Leggett & Platt. Now I work full time here as the Employee Relations Assistant, where I’m learning as much as I can from the great team around me. In my role I’m directly involved in many of the facets that drive the human resources department at a large organization. I finish grad school in December 2015 and can’t wait to see what new challenge comes next!