When I was in college, I had no idea what I wanted to after graduation. I changed my major a year in, and even then, was still not really sure what I was going to do with an Operations Management degree.
One thing I did know for sure was that I was going to do several co-ops to test out different roles and work environments. I figured if there was a way to determine what I wanted to do, testing out some options was going to be the best route. My dad still works for the company he co-oped with in college, so I assumed that internships would do nothing but help me.
I think I was unprepared though for just how great of an experience my co-op rotations would be. I was lucky enough to find Bridge Logistics on my first rotation, and even though I had thought I’d work at several companies, I’m still here over four years later.
I started with Bridge as an operations co-op. I worked with several of our sales reps helping to find carriers to move our customers’ shipments. I gained a lot of extremely valuable experience – learning how to interact with customers, remain professional at all times (even in a sometimes unprofessional industry), and build relationships in business. It was a great experience, but it also showed me that I didn’t see a long-term fit for me in that role or within sales.
Even though I didn’t want to stay within the department that I co-oped in, that position helped me get my next role. I was given the opportunity to develop our operational onboarding program because of the work I had done in my initial co-op rotations. Then, I was able to transition into my current role of recruiting and hiring because of the experience I had training. But it all came back to the initial work I had put in while interning.
I can confidently say that I am where I am now because of my internship experience. It helped me determine a path that I don’t think I would have been able to find just in the classroom. It’s hard to really know if you’re going to like something until you do it day in and day out. That’s why internships are such a great thing!
Even if you absolutely hate your internship, it’s only for a few months and then you never have to go back if you don’t want to. You’ll then have an idea of what you don’t like so you can avoid those elements in your next role.
Work hard even if you realize the role won’t be a long-term fit for you.
Any internship can give you a better perspective on the work environment that you like best. Do you prefer an open office layout or high cube walls with more privacy? Do you like working for a small company where you know everyone or do you prefer a large corporation with brand recognition? Are you okay with a job that doesn’t have remote capabilities or do you need more flexibility? These are all valuable things you can determine regardless of your job title.
Start building a list of what you like and don’t like about your internship roles, so you can have a better sense of direction for your next position.
Find an internship that you think will give you real-world experience (not just running around getting coffee for people), and then work extremely hard while you’re there. Even if you don’t see a long-term fit in that role or company, you never know who might be able to make connections for you in the future. One of your coworkers could end up at a different company down the line and recommend you for an open position. In an internship, you should make every effort to build relationships across the company.
Make relationships outside of your immediate department to set yourself both apart and up for future success.
From my own personal experience, I know finding a job after graduation would have been much harder without my internships. I can’t talk enough about how valuable they are. Worst case scenario, you find out what you don’t like in a role. Best case scenario, you find the company where you want to start your career like I did.
By Allison Walke, Talent Acquisition & Onboarding
*Interested in applying for one of our internship roles? Submit an application here!*