Kesmyre Smalls is a Junior at Paul Quinn College, majoring in Legal Studies and Criminology and a 2021 College Intern at Workforce Matters.
How does your work at Workforce Matters compare with other internships you have had? This internship is completely different from the other internship I've had. For starters, this is 100% online. I was kind of skeptical at first because I’m more of a hands-on person, but I gave it a shot and really like the flexibility and trying new things. What I enjoy doing is managing the social media feed as well as creating a newsletter. I also enjoy getting to attend different trainings and learning new things. Last month, I got to attend a training on Asset-Framing with Trabian Shorters and the BMe Community. I learned that Asset-Framing can help us change narratives and address systemic obstacles and barriers. I learned that narrative change is system change--we have to work to change our mental models before we can see transformative, structural change.
Why are internships important? Internships are important because they provide us with the opportunity to learn new things in the workplace while gaining experience in the field. Students who completed an internship are 15% less likely to be unemployed in the first years after college. In my current internship, I learned about STARs from a presentation by Opportunity@Work. STARs are people who don’t have a four-year college degree but have the skills to thrive in middle to high-wage jobs. More than 70 million workers in the U.S. are considered STARs, and they are often screened out by employers. In my last internship, I learned how to work with adults with different abilities than mine. This was a new experience for me since the schools I attended separated me from students with disabilities. Personally, my internships have introduced me to new people, which expanded my network. I have also gained new experiences. In general, internships can help young people gain confidence and increase their resilience in the workforce.
What is important for young people to know before they begin an internship? It is important for young people to know before they begin an internship that you have to have an open mind going in. You shouldn’t go into an internship with the mindset of a job but an opportunity to gain information in that field. In order for you to learn and be successful, you have to get out of your comfort zone and do things you wouldn't normally do. Just like any job, you should always do your research on the company's expectations and mission.
What is important for organizations to know about young people before they bring in an intern or structure an internship program? It is important for companies to go through a process that identifies a young person’s interests, values, and experiences before they bring them on as an intern. Companies should take the time to learn about what young people are capable of doing and structure an internship based on their strengths and assets. And of course, companies should look for someone who shares their values and expectations
What makes a successful internship program? A successful internship program prepares an intern for real-life scenarios by having them do different tasks, first as a group or part of a team, and then eventually by themselves. It helps interns gradually gain independence and responsibility with every task. Additionally, it benefits the company by allowing the company to survey and build their future talent pipelines.
What have you learned from your internships (both with us and with other organizations)? I have interned for Home Place of Texas (Spring, TX) and Workforce Matters (virtual) and never thought of doing those types of internships before because they weren’t directly aligned with what I thought interested me, but I gained so much knowledge from both experiences that I can use as I make choices about my career. I have learned from my internships that you have to try something new and go in without judgment. I’ve also learned that even though I like doing hands-on work, I can be successful in a virtual environment!