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What My Summer Internship Taught Me

Like most juniors going into senior year, this past summer I had a summer internship. Like many working professionals, I made my way in the great city of Boston every morning at 7 am and was lucky enough to work in the Copley Square area right in downtown Boston. I had some good times and I had some bad times. All in all I would say that I had a very successful summer. Let me share with you the main lesson I learned.
I work at Marsh and McLennan Agency in Boston. For those of you who don’t know this is just one of many of Marsh and McLennan (parent company) umbrella agencies that exist throughout the U.S. Marsh and McLennan dabbles in many different arenas of financial services. Marsh and McLennan Agency (MMA) works mostly in the insurance sector of the industry. This past summer I was lucky enough to land an internship in their finance department.
Side note: I am a senior in the Carroll School of Management here at Boston College. I am a finance and marketing major and before this summer was having a real hard time figuring out what direction I wanted my career to go in after I graduate. Okay, side note over.
So here I was on my first day walking up to 500 Boylston, and let me tell you I was a nervous wreck. I walked into the lobby and when the security guard behind the desk asked me what company I was there to see I blurted out my own name. Blain, who after this enormously embarrassing moment, became a buddy of mine, found my nervous outburst endearing and laughed at me. He told me not to worry and that the people who worked “Up there are great people, you have nothing to worry about.” I came to find out he was right. The people who I had the privilege of working with for the next few weeks were some of the best people I have met. They were kind, extremely smart, and very funny. Going to work was not a chore or a hardship, it was exciting and everything I hoped it would be. I hit the ground running, receiving numerous projects from a few different departments.
Lesson: Do not be afraid to say “no”!
As an intern, I was nervous that if I said “no” to a manager or a full time employee that I would somehow not being doing my job and that that would reflect badly on me. So I kept saying yes, and then, by the end of my first week, I was completely overwhelmed. I felt like I was drowning and I was afraid to reach up for help because I feared that I would still somehow end up in hot water for it all. Finally in week two, the heart of the office, Di, found me sitting at my desk at lunch by myself completely lost in a spreadsheet. She immediately told me to stand up and shake it off. She asked me what on earth I was doing, and when I told her I was afraid to say no to projects, a look of understanding spread across her face. She nodded and she said, “Yeah, no, you need to say no. Think about it this way, when you invite someone out with you and they keep beating around the bush and keep saying that they are coming only to pull the rug out from under you minutes before the event, isn’t that worse than them just saying no from the beginning?” I looked at her and nodded. She smiled, “So it’s settled, you are going to learn the word no.”
I did and let me tell you, it made all the difference. I was able to do the work I had better and I was able to enjoy the day. I felt bad at first but then I realized I was the only one. No one else cared because they understood. As long as I had a legitimate reason to say no, there was no reason to say yes. Once I had grasped that it became easier to do my project and complete them in the efficient amount of time. I was able to understand what I was doing and do it well. I impressed my co-workers with my skills in Excel and all the databases that we were using. I would complete task with little trouble or stress but I was finding that with each passing project I was getting less and less satisfaction from them. Before I knew it, I was back to feeling overwhelmed. I was confused. Now that I knew I could do the work and do it well I should be happy. I should have been excited that everything was going so smoothly. Then, I had maybe the biggest realization of my internship – I realized that I did not want to work in finance. I had been studying for three years, had worked immensely hard to get this killer internship only to find that I did not want to work in the field at all. And it wasn’t because I was bad at it because I wasn’t, I just realized that I didn’t like it. Once I figured that out, I was happy.
Now I am taking my business degree in another direction. I recently started a marketing and events internship. Hopefully this one goes better than the last internship. I have high hopes! I will be sure to let you all know how it all goes. Just remember that any type of professional experience is good for you and will help you in the future. You can learn a lot about yourself and what you want from life.
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