This Internship Chose Me: Making the Most of On-Campus Opportunities

Maddy Wagar

Sometimes you don’t have to venture too far to find the perfect internship. Maddy Wagar, a Psychology major at Reed College used her photography skills to get her foot in the (very nearby) door of The Center for Life Beyond Reed and then managed to score an internship that’ll last until she graduates in 2016. Read on for ideas on how to blend your talents with nearby opportunities for the perfect learning experience.

What is your current title and workplace? How long have you been there?

I am currently the Strategic Partnership Intern with The Center for Life Beyond Reed. Try fitting that on a business card. I was officially hired for the position at the end of August this year, but I worked with my current boss Brooke Hunter my freshman year as well.

What is the duration of your internship?

It should hopefully last for the duration of my time at Reed.

How did you find your internship? How long did the process take from start to finish?

During my freshman year I found a post on Reed’s employment search engine calling for a one-time photographer for a Career Services—now the Center for Life Beyond Reed (CLBR)—event that was happening on campus. I was hired for the gig, and was lucky enough that Brooke Hunter, the Assistant Director of Strategic Partnerships, liked my work enough to call on me several more times throughout the year to do photography for various events. She thought it would be handy to have a photographer as a permanent member of the team, and was also looking for another intern to hire for the following year. I suppose part of my appeal was that I could be multi-purpose. It’s hard to get a precise timeline for how long the process took—I started working for Brooke midway through freshman year, but didn’t consolidate the title “intern” until this August.

How many internships did you apply for? How did you choose the companies/departments and positions?

I applied for a research internship with Oklahoma State University that was most a bit of an attempt to shoot the moon. It was a highly competitive summer program to study the biological basis of behavior in lab with a Ph.D professor as a mentor. It would have been incredible, but I suppose “Introductory Psychology Class and a 5 on the IB biology test” experience didn’t dazzle. The internship with The Center for Life Beyond Reed sort of chose me. I’m still searching for where I generated the karma for that fortune. Somehow, I managed to secure a one-time photo gig that turned into one of the most positive, rewarding, and constructive experiences of my life.

What’s a typical day like as an intern?

Currently, I am helping with CLBR’s new blog, Works & Days. The blog is aimed at providing a forum to publicize the amazing things that Reedies past and present are engaging with and accomplishing. I coordinate with past and present students who are involved in interesting projects in and beyond campus, conduct interviews with them, and upload those interviews to the blog. I also post stories that students have written themselves about their experiences in opportunities they were connected to through Reed’s resource and support network. I’m also available for photography whenever it is needed.

What is your major? How does your internship relate to your studies?

I’m a Psychology major, in part because I think that anything and everything relates to psychology. In conducting interviews, I get a glimpse of human motivations and self-perception, and gain some perspective on the diversity of people’s values, beliefs, and paradigms. I hope to pursue a career as some kind of investigative reporter or journalist, so this internship is definitely providing me with great experience in that field.

What are some of the most important things you’ve learned as an intern?

How to schedule and collaborate effectively with others. This position requires me to keep an incredibly structured and up-to-date schedule. It’s not enough to just get my work done by the deadline, because I’ve made specific time obligations to others that I have to be sure to keep up with during the interim. I’m also learning how to ask questions that are going to lead to interesting and informative insights.

After graduation, would you consider a full-time job in this area or at this employer?

As I mentioned, I would like to find a job doing journalistic work. That’s not exactly the specific area of this internship, but there is definitely overlap in terms of the skills I’m developing and the type of tasks I’m being assigned. If there were a full-time job called “doing things for Brooke Hunter” I would happily sign up for a long-term contract. Brooke is wonderfully generous with her resources, and working for her has been such a pleasurable and enriching experience.

Homework time! Maddy’s internship began as a one-off project. Look for an opportunity on campus or in your community to do something similar. Even if it doesn’t lead to a full-time position, it’ll be great experience and add to your professional portfolio.

Maddy Wagar is a Psychology major at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Check out her photography portfolio here.


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