Why Internships Matter

Using Early Work Experience to Find Career Direction

by Natalie Floam, niece of Kathy Floam Greenspan

“The only source of knowledge is experience.” – Albert Einstein. 

Let me introduce myself. I am Natalie Floam, Kathy Floam Greenspan’s niece and your average rising high-school sophomore, meaning I don’t know exactly what I want to do with my life career-wise, but I have lots of ideas up in the air.

As a high school student, the most daunting task in the journey to college and beyond is not which short-term job to find but how to know which field is the best long-term and how to put those skills and passion into action when life comes knocking.

When I asked my Aunt Kathy, who has run her own marketing agency for 22 years, she gave me a simple answer: get an internship.

During her sophomore year of college at the University of Maryland School of Journalism, Aunt Kathy was required to complete an internship in order to graduate. Her first line of action was to go to the library and research advertising companies in the area. Then, she sent out cover letters and resumes to numerous ad agencies to boost her chances of landing an internship opportunity. This sounds easy enough, I think.

As a result of her strategy and proactivity, Aunt Kathy scored an unpaid internship at Taylor, Michaels & Grey advertising in Maryland. In the first year, she did anything they gave her to do and was happy to do it. They recognized her can-do attitude and gave her more advanced projects to work on. Ultimately, her valuable writing skills, creativity and efficiency helped her earn a promotion to a paid Account Manager position. She worked and attended school full-time, finding innovative ways such as independent studies sponsored by her professors, to obtain college credit for her time at work.

While I realize that this is likely much more than most sophomore-in-college interns accomplish at their very first internship, it’s still inspiring. Aunt Kathy’s internship experience helped set the course for her career. This is precisely what most college students need — real-world work experience that helps to shape their future. Aunt Kathy told me that her college internship “validated what talents I had and the direction I could go in my career.” She launched her own agency in her 20s and thinks it was largely due to the experience and confidence she gained by starting her career early.

While many students may not have an initial internship experience comparable to Aunt Kathy’s, having the experience alone is what matters. The moral that I gleaned from her internship story is: experience is pure gold for a young person. Aunt Kathy feels that all college students should be required to do at least one internship in order to graduate from college. She thinks it lessens the chances of years of floundering trying to find the right career path. Plus, the experience, good or bad, can be translated into a personal understanding of strengths, weaknesses, skills, aspirations and how to harness them to their fullest in the business world … and in life.

You can bet that I will be heeding my Aunt Kathy’s advice by strategically searching out internships that will help me find a career in which I can flourish professionally and personally.