Are you a college student with little to no professional experience? Read how one student’s internship experience reshaped her entire career.
I had a very particular vision for my career when I was growing up: I was fascinated by the Human Genome Project and envisioned myself becoming a biomedical engineer. So when I was beginning my freshman year of college, I had a good idea of where I wanted to go and how to get there – but things took a turn I could never have predicted.
Shortly after the school year started, I landed an internship at a biotech consulting firm near my college campus. I thought I was on the right career track, until the founder of the consultancy pulled me aside about two months after I started and told me he hadn’t taken me on because I was interested in biomedical engineering. Rather, he said, I’d been hired because of something I’d mentioned in my interview: that I helped launch new brands for my family’s business.
I was already thrown for a loop – and then things got even stranger. My boss pulled a recipe out of his pocket and told me I would be in charge of commercializing and branding it.
I went home from work that day confused, uncertain and more than a little annoyed. I had had my whole career mapped out, and now I was being asked to do something that was completely removed from my field of interest. But my friends told me I should just go for it – and that turned out to be the absolute right choice.
As the months went by, I really began to enjoy the project my boss had given me. I learned not only about building a business from the ground up but how to relate to manufacturers, distributors and others in the food industry and design the identity of a new brand. I wound up so enjoying the broad mix of challenges faced and skills required in brand development I pursued a career in brand creation and innovation – a path I probably wouldn’t have taken had it not been for that internship.
My experience taught me a valuable lesson about being open to new projects and different career options. In college, I was a die-hard planner who had sketched out a career in biotech. But by being open to an opportunity that came my way, I ended up in a field that energizes me and leverages my talents far more than being an engineer ever would.
Having plans and goals is wonderful. But even if you’re the kind of driven, type-A young person who generates plans and checklists in your sleep, you shouldn’t be so committed to your plan that you close yourself off to new and unforeseen opportunities. Being open-minded is what exposed me to the possibility of a career in launching new branded businesses – and if you adopt a similarly open mindset, your ideal career could fall into your lap.