Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Five Ways to Make Sure Your Intern Never Wants to Leave

Melody Rowell | 2012
Today was my last day as a PR intern for Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The past eight weeks were such a productive, valuable, and uplifting experience; I'm so grateful for the opportunity and for the wonderful people I got to know.

And so, here are five ways to ensure that your intern leaves your place of work oozing the same sentimentality I feel tonight.

1. Make sure the job description you posted matches up with what your intern will actually be doing. With Kauffman Center, I knew exactly what I was getting into. No assignment seemed out of place with the objectives of the internship that I agreed to.

2. Give your interns valuable assignments. If they aren't getting paid, don't add insult to injury by giving them the crappy jobs that no one else wants to do. My supervisor at Kauffman Center entrusted me with several meaty projects that will be visible to the public, which gave me even more motivation to perform well.

3. Include your intern in the office's culture. My supervisor did a great job of introducing me to other staff members and involving me in events. Everyone I met seemed genuinely glad that I was there, and approximately 98% of them used the phrase "Welcome aboard!" Make sure your intern knows that in the real world, office friendships can and do extend beyond business hours.

4. Get feedback from your intern before the term is over. Halfway through my stint, my supervisor sat me down and asked me to evaluate my experience thus far. What did I enjoy? What took me by surprise? What did I want to do more/less of in my remaining time? A short conference like this makes your intern feel that this unpaid gig is a productive use of time. I put in a lot of work and felt like I got a lot out of it-- which made me want to put in even more work.

5. If you can't offer your intern a job at the end of the term, put in some effort to aid in networking, to help prepare resumes and cover letters, and to impart general career advice. It meant a great deal to me that several of the women I worked with invested hours in helping me with all three of those things. After eight weeks, I have new skills, new confidence, new contacts, and best (cheesiest) of all, new friendships.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Change is Gonna Come.

Over the past few weeks, I've had a series of conversations that have challenged, discouraged, inspired, uplifted, and motivated me.

The first was with a National Geographic photographer named Mattias Klum. I met him while working at the Kauffman Center; my supervisor Kristin invited me to go along to the KCUR studio for his interview. While in the car, Kristin and I peppered him with all the questions we could think of-- I mean, how often do you meet a NatGeo photographer? Klum is kind, humble, and his twinkling blue eyes reveal the genuine joy he gets out of his work. The day before, he had done a meet-and-greet session at the Kansas City Zoo. He told us that a teenage girl and her parents approached him. The parents said that their daughter had an interest in writing, photography, and was interested in some kind of journalistic career. But, they said, how can she ever make any money doing that? Klum turned to the daughter and told her, "If that is what you love, if that is what you want, if that is what brings you joy, then you will find a way to make it lucrative." He said her furrowed brow relaxed and her whole face lit up. Klum told us, "I could tell she went from thinking it was totally impossible to suddenly having all this hope!"

The next conversation was with a Kansas City writer who has been published in many prominent publications. I'll leave names out of it. I appreciated the time he took to meet with me, but our conversation left my head spinning. When I said I'd like to hear his advice on being a writer, he first told me, "Don't do it." He told me my blog wouldn't work because it wasn't specific enough. "Think 'space technology for kittens,'" he said. In referring to my favorite magazine, my absolute dream, he said, "They're perfect. You just have to be better." At one point, he also offered this suggestion with a shrug: "I mean, I wouldn't necessarily recommend this, but sex and drugs always worked for me." I saw him exactly four nights later at an event, and he apologized for being too harsh on me. He said he felt bad, and then said he's met young people who say they want to be writers, but when he asks for them to write 500 words on ________, they never get around to it. Clearly, they don't want it. "So," he continued. "How's it going specifying your blog?" My brain was screaming IT'S A TRAP! but my mouth couldn't keep up. "Uh, um, well," I stammered. "I'm still working on it. I don't know. I'm thinking about it."
"Hm," he said, with a knowing look and sharp nod. When we parted ways I felt queasy and humiliated. This guy thinks I'm a fake. He's a big deal and he thinks I'm totally full of it. He thinks I'm not hungry for it.
In the midst of this mental meltdown, I knew he was on to something. I remembered back to our original conversation, when he brought up these haunting ideas: What would you think if you knew someone who wanted to run marathons, but never went out running? How do you know a runner is a runner? Is it because they tell you? Or is it because they go out and run every day? Would you know I was a writer without me telling you? Can I even call myself a writer when I don't write every day?

The third conversation was with a colleague from Kauffman Center. When I told her of the conversation above, she looked at me dumbfounded. "You don't have to get specific," she said. "You're twenty-two years old. You don't even know what your voice is yet." She reiterated that, yes, if I am ever going to be any good, I have to write. every. day. "You can't plan out what you're going to write for the rest of your life," she said, "but you can decide what you're going to write today." She encouraged me to find ways to do what I love when I'm currently not in a job that even remotely involves those passions. "Some day, you'll have a job where your boss will tell you, 'I want this many words about this exact thing and I want you to include these certain ideas and avoid these certain words and I need it by tomorrow.' So enjoy the time you have now when you can write whatever you want!" And yes, maybe some day I'll look at my blog and realize I talk about some things more than other things, but for now, I have to actually talk about things.

How this is all going to play out, I'm not sure. This first-born perfectionist wants to have everything planned out, but it may be better to just jump in. I'm getting rid of the rules. Maybe I'll post on Fridays, maybe I won't. Maybe it'll be 500 words long, or maybe I'll have a series of snippets throughout the day. Something has to change-- I can't keep dreaming without the work to back it up.

So please, stick with me in this journey. I probably won't post to Facebook every time I write, so bookmark this page now.

Let the overhaul begin.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Shelf: A Progress Report

Remember The Shelf? And how I said I was going to read 36 books in 2012?

Let's revisit that.

First, let me say that shortly after making that goal, I discovered Downton Abbey. As we all know, one episode of Downton Abbey is the equivalent of reading a book. So when we do that math, I'd venture so far as to say I've surpassed my goal, number-wise.

But as far as the list itself goes, I'm ashamed to say that thus far, I've only finished two books. Two. In four months. It's pitiful. Probably my worst track record ever.

But hey, those two books were pretty darn good.

The first was Jane Austen's Persuasion. Anne Elliot is the main lady, and, as is common for Austen's novels, Anne is surrounded by bumbling, selfish, embarrassing, entertaining family members. Seven years previous to the action of the novel, Anne falls in love with the dashing Frederick Wentworth, a navy officer below her social status. He proposes, but Anne's mentor persuades her to turn him down. In the action, the two cross paths again while Anne visits her sister, and it seems he is intent to marry another. Meanwhile, the rightful heir to the Elliot fortune pops up and starts to woo Anne. Unlike Austen's other novels, I wasn't sure how this one was going to turn out. Persuasion, Austen's final work, has a bit more serious tone to it. Anne's disappointment is heavy on the heart of the reader, and while she isn't fiery like Elizabeth or straight-forward as Elinor, I found myself rooting for her more than other Austenian protagonists. Her gentle confidence evokes empathy and self-identification, and thus quietly wins over the reader as well as one of the male characters.

Last week, I finished Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. While I'd hastily studied the SparkNotes in preparation for Oxbridge comps, I had never gotten past the first chapter of the actual book. Not because it's not engaging, but probably because something else came up. Like my degree. Nervous Conditions a post-colonial bildungsroman. Tambu, a young girl growing up in rural Zimbabwe in the '70s, gets the opportunity to attend school after her older brother dies. Torn between her cultural traditions and the promise of advancing her situation through education, Tambu keenly and fairly observes the women and men around her as they also try to establish a homogenous identity amidst a schizophrenic society. It's a haunting examination of patriarchy and colonialism, and the complicated outcomes they render.

Currently reading: Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Unfinished books I need to go back to: Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh; In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lacey Crough Photography

My friend Lacey is a really cute photographer who takes really cute photos. Recently, she asked me if I'd run around downtown Kansas City with her for some picture-taking fun. How could I resist?

We had a blast on our 90-minute shoot, and I love the way the images came out. It was quite the ego boost-- I don't think I've ever felt so pretty! I'm planning on picking one out to be my professional image around the interwebs.

See the images here, the video here, and be sure to "like" Lacey on Facebook.

But wait! There's more!

Readers of The Friday 500 have the chance to win a 90-minute shoot of your own with Lacey Crough Photography! All you have to do is leave a comment in this post. Tell us-- if you could have a photo shoot anywhere in the world, where would it be?

[edit: Sarah Hartenberger is the lucky winner!]