Isabel Schumacher

My internship experience through Teen JUST-US taught me skills for being successful in the workplace. Before my internship with YW Boston, I believed that work success happened when one had the education, opportunity, and skills to do a specific job well. And that is a big part of it. But now I know that a significant part of workplace success does not come through textbook knowledge and cannot be taught in school.

An important factor in work success is experience. I was really fortunate to get an internship placement at YW. Every day of my internship I was ready to work at nine o’clock and stopped working at five o’clock.  I had done volunteering before at my mother’s workplace, but I have never had a formal job or internship. As an intern, I did a lot of things that did not require a specific education or skills. But I was the one chosen to do them, and I did them to the best of my ability. One aspect that made my YW placement especially good was that I got to work with staff members in a variety of capacities. I had a supportive supervisor, did some work for a person in another area, and got to work with coworkers in the form of other interns.

At YW Boston, I was exposed to an amazing workplace culture. The staff and organization as a whole are committed to growth and to find ways to make their employees successful. For example, my supervisor gave me a tremendous amount of support in the form of daily check-outs, weekly one-on-ones, and weekly project check-ins. The staff, including me, met and discussed important topics like white ignorance. My supervisor also answered my questions in a very timely way, and there was never a large period of time where I could not make progress on one of my tasks. It allowed me to feel very productive and stable in my work at YW. Even with all this support, I had a lot of independence to execute on projects. I felt supported, but had many hours of free time where the onus was on me to manage my work and fulfill the goals that were set by my supervisor and me.

Clear work expectations are necessary to succeed at any assignment, whether it is work or school, and something I have always valued. In new settings, I can feel intimidated by people in positions of authority over me. This can deter me from asking many clarifying questions. One skill that I learned, if it can be done productively, was to hold questions and do other assignments until a set meeting or check-in came up. My supervisor gave due dates for my deliverables early on, which relieved some of the stress of worrying I was taking too long. My work fell into a couple of different categories that each had very different expectations: due day-of or in two days, due at the end of internship, or would not be finished in my internship. I learned different goal and time management skills with them. With charts that were due day-of, I concentrated all of my efforts on them until they were finished. When auditing a slide presentation, I did it in chucks and interspersed other work in between them. The last project I had was to make a facilitator guide, and knowing that I could not fill in all of the necessary information and that it had a lesser priority, I worked on it after I completed those other projects.

While I was there, I was able to conduct or participate in quite a few informational interviews. I learned that there is always something that can be learned from coworkers and other people in the workforce, whether it’s a more efficient use of Excel or a way to talk about privilege. I learned the importance of networking, all the different considerations beyond salary when finding a job, and that there are many different paths in life where you can find a fulfilling career.

I am so grateful that I applied to this program, got accepted, and landed at YW Boston. I learned much from this experience and am more prepared for future occupational opportunities and endeavors.

Isabel Schumacher
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