It’s no secret that the job market of the modern world is becoming a turbulent wasteland full of qualified candidates vying for the few available high paying, high skill positions that are so coveted by the young workforce. The magnitude of this ultra- competitive pressure is felt through generations, causing college students to panic and stockpile as much professional experience as possible before they even graduate. Summer internships after freshman year are now the expected bare minimum, and if you don’t network furiously during the school year, then you’re falling behind. Just as there is fierce competition for actual jobs, internships at top companies are fought over desperately, with many students attempting to lock up their next summer internship before they have left their first one. It is not uncommon to have that dread of an unemployed summer loom over students during the semester, with the fear of falling behind their peers always in the back of their mind.
This is the position I found myself in late last March. Having sent out applications to many organizations in the fall, I was in purgatory waiting for their responses. I had a solid resume, but it was relatively unspectacular as I didn’t have any stints at big companies in my career thus far. I was not hopeful that I would earn a position at any of the places I aimed for, and cursed my lack of foresight that had prevented me from applying anywhere else than corporate behemoths. However, my schools typically dysfunctional job search site for once functioned, and I was reached out to by a fast-growing startup company called Eastern Foundry. I was skeptical of how I would fit in there at first, as I was profoundly uninformed about the realm of coworking, but I was not going to pass up a good opportunity. On that day in March, I took a chance and decided to schedule a phone interview, which ended up being the overwhelmingly correct decision.
That choice led me to a position where I gained more professional experience than I could have ever expected. The typical internship from me and my friends perspectives and experiences, is synonymous with grunt work and “intern projects” that do not impact the company in any way other than giving them a tool to evaluate their interns. The main reason for doing many of these internships is just to boost your resume, rather than actually develop applicable skills in your field of work. I can say unequivocally that this internship has dramatically altered my viewpoint. I was introduced to an amazing group of young, driven, and dedicated professionals who more than willingly integrated me into their team. From there, the chance to work on high profile and significant projects was presented to me. Initially I was startled, I hardly expected to be trusted with this much responsibility and risk, but over time, with the help of team encouragement, any inceptive fear of failure dissipated as my confidence grew.
The project I was assigned to was an SBIR, or Small Business Innovation Research grant. I was tasked with doing research to validate the problem we were trying to solve with our product, and the information I gathered ended up being paramount to building a strong proposal. I was provided with ample instruction, but had relative autonomy over how I went about doing the actual work. The amount of freedom I was afforded and the lack of overbearing micromanagement was refreshing, and allowed me to produce quality results. It would be blatant deception if I were to say that the potential ramifications of unsatisfactory output were not daunting, but at no point did I feel exposed or put in a position where failure was likely. It was an environment of controlled risk, where I could be introduced to the stresses of real-world consequential deadlines yet were within my capability to meet.
The summer I spent at Eastern Foundry was incredible, I was able to make a substantive impact and help win two SBIR grants, as well as utilize the plentiful networking opportunities that their ecosystem of companies provided. It prepared me for the actual professional lifestyle, and enhanced my resume. It was an unforgettable summer full of fun people and fruitful projects, and I don’t doubt that anyone who interns there will have an experience of the same benefit.