Posted by Areeb Siddiqui
Coming into college, and especially the McDermott Program, I felt overwhelmed. Everyone was already doing so many interesting activities, and I was spending my free time making up hours of sleep that I had missed the night before due to homework procrastination. I wanted to do something useful and valuable with my time, not just something for the sake of staying busy, but something that I would be passionate about.
The problem for me was I didn’t really know what my future career would look like (spoiler alert: I still don’t). What I did know was that I liked politics and wanted to help underprivileged people in this country. A month into the semester, Kim Flicker (our Assistant Director) sent out an email about a development intern position at a non-profit in Dallas called WiNGS, short for Women in Need of Generous Support. I did some research into the organization and found that they work to support new mothers who live under the poverty line and teach business and finance skills to women entrepreneurs. As an intern, I would be tasked with researching multiple organizations and companies and writing reports on their likelihood of contributing to WiNGS based on factors such as past donations. I would also be tasked with handling communications with many local and state politicians and other non-profits.
Two weeks after my interview, I got a call whilst eating lunch at the dining hall and was told that I had been chosen to join the non-profit. Although ecstatic, I did feel a rush of anxiety run through my body. I had signed myself up for 10 hours a week of work (not including driving) on top of my classes in my first semester of college. Could I handle my job, classes, homework, and studying without killing myself? I didn’t know.
On my first day on the job I was given an intro session by the HR manager. Along with three new employees, I was given a lengthy talk about being an employee for WiNGS. Afterwards, the HR manager plopped a huge employee’s manual binder in front of me. It was too much for me to handle. I felt like I had signed myself up for failure.
However, everything slowly but surely changed for the better. Vickie, my manager, showed me my desk. I had my own large open space with a computer, pencils, notebook, and a box of goodies (the granola bars covered my lunch for all the times I didn’t have enough time to bring something from campus).
As I started to do the work throughout the week, the nerves and anxiety slowly faded away. The development team was beyond nice and gracious. They were so friendly that my work routine felt like doing homework with a bunch of my friends every day. I was taught how to quickly and effectively find information through non-profit databases in order to expedite my work process, and before I knew it conducting reports became like second nature to me. I really enjoyed working at WiNGS because of the genuine kindness, motivation, and compassion in the atmosphere of the workplace. Everybody was always happy, helpful, and devoted to their work, and I think it is because everyone strongly believed in the mission of the non-profit. There is also an aura of informality at WiNGS that makes working there so stress-free and enjoyable.
There were definitely challenges of the internship, too. Oftentimes, I had work before major tests or assignments due, so I found myself finishing up math homework while doing research for work on the side. My sleeping schedule was out of shape, my diet was not on par, and exercise was non-existent. I am not complaining, however, as I got an unfiltered glimpse of how a future busy work schedule will look like. This gave me the push I needed to learn how to manage all of the other aspects of my life around my responsibilities. Trying to get ready on time in the mornings, eat something, and drive to work 30 minutes a day is an all too familiar routine for most working Americans.
If I were to pass on advice from this experience, I would say this: take on big opportunities that come to you in college, but do not overexert yourself. After a tough semester, give yourself a break before you take on another strong workload. Always make time for breakfast, at least 6 hours of sleep, and exercise at least once a week. Finally, don’t take opportunities because they sound fancy, but because they are a genuine interest for you and you think you will have a lot of fun doing it. If you don’t, you are setting yourself up for failure will find yourself unable to have the drive to juggle the internship with school and a social life. WiNGS opened my eyes to the world of non-profit, a world in which you can have a lot of fun doing your job, with confidence that you are working for an organization pursuing an altruistic purpose.