I have friends that have been in school for 25 years non-stop, graduating from high school, attending college, then on to get their masters and even a doctorate! Attending ivey-league schools and graduating top in their class you think they would be ready to conquer the world. Unfortunately, the classroom and textbooks will only cater so much knowledge to the developing brain of someone ready to dive into their calling. Going to school for something is a great foundation to build upon and I believe its necessary but much of school is a repetitive cycle of learning how to learn. When graduating from most schools the diploma basically reads, “We recognize this person has the self discipline to obtain information and practice that information.”
Now, before you get upset about me dismissing your nephew that worked three part-time jobs to get himself through college, I applaud him, I know it’s hard work…I lived it and I believe he will be better because of it. I’m not minimizing the information learned in the classroom, like I said, it’s necessary. What happens after graduation though? Should we be given a job of our choice just because we graduated top in our class? I believe that method has come and gone. Long ago in the 90’s my generation was promised by parents and teachers alike, “Go to college and get your degree so you can have the job of your dreams.”
It happens every single year. I hear a story about a student that is $100k in debt for going to college to study their “dream job” and after graduation they are working at the local grocery store. What?! It never gets old and always surprises me, and I always ask the question…”So what are they going to do?” Many times people shrug and say, “I don’t know.”
Enter the internship model. Interning, shadowing, residency, apprentice work – this mindset has been around since the beginning of time. Sit under the expert you want to learn from and keep learning until they believe you are ready to be on your own. My college offered “internship” programs that were really self selected. You want to be a youth pastor? Pick a church and youth pastor you want to learn from, have them agree to the timeline and get them to sign off on your hours, but it is so much more than that.
An internship is not simply a stepping stone into your job of choice, it’s an opportunity for learning that you will not get in the classroom. Too many students I talk to look at an internship as the final hoop to jump through, the icing on the cake or even a guaranteed position at the company where they are interning. Remember, nothing is guaranteed and the internship is a learning opportunity. So learn, learn, learn! Take notes, ask questions, be available, execute tasks given to you.
I was an intern in my field both prior going to college and post college…oh and during college.
PRE-COLLEGE I was offered an internship my senior year of high school into my freshmen year of college, I took it to see if I really wanted to do what I was feeling called to do. A pre-college internship is a wonderful opportunity to confirm your desires to be a __________. I would highly encourage this option if you can find it before spending loads of your parents money or the money you don’t have on a college education in a field you may eventually despise. I went to the local community college and took care of my basics during my internship.
DURING COLLEGE These are not simply the education years but the networking years. Get to know people that do what you want to do. Begin chasing down leads, take them out to coffee and pick their brain on the vocation they are living out daily. You will begin to see another side to this role you are studying in the classroom. Do they have an opening for custodial work during the week or need someone to greet clients at the front desk? Seize the opportunity. It’s amazing what you can learn about a profession by simply living in that world a few hours out of the week. You never know who you might meet, it could be your future boss.
POST-COLLEGE Perhaps one of the most critical times to intern yet short lived by many. Young professionals want the paycheck and the title. Both will come with time but perhaps the best next step is to find the person you want to learn from. Perhaps you are following in someone’s footsteps, just ask them, “What do you think about me shadowing you for a year?” If they say no, ask them who they might suggest. When you intern for someone or a company you will quickly see that you are taking on a specific DNA of how something is accomplished. Remember, it’s not the only way to do things. Just as much as an internship is learning how to do things it’s also a place to make promises to yourself such as, “I will never do it that way.”
In closing, I hope you find the job of your dreams. I believe if you chase after what you believe you were created to do it will eventually happen with time but time best spent could be learning from someone that is currently living it.
I’m really excited about the opportunity we have for those that are interested in entering into vocational ministry. If you want to be a youth pastor, worship leader, program director, church planter we have a pretty neat program for you. Its a front row seat to the daily life of those on staff at a church, the good bad and ugly.
This is not an internship. It’s so much more. The Leadership Development Program is an immersive ministry experience with mentoring and leadership training. You will do hands-on ministry and work along-side our staff teams and our goal is that after this experience, you will be ready to find a full time staff position at a church or para-church ministry. Come get prepared! To learn more, download the description of the Leadership-Development-Program and then click here to apply!
I am thrilled to be one of those on our staff team that speaks into the future leaders of the church and love sharing my success and failures with those that want to learn. If you are interested in a learning opportunity in Austin, TX this is a great one! I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding the leadership development program. Don’t hesitate to reach out!
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