I could feel myself shaking more with each step as I advanced toward the podium. Fixated on thinking through all the possible scenarios that the next seven minutes could turn into, I cleared my mind and turned around to face my audience. Seventy company leaders with pleasant dispositions and an encouraging nod or two directed their attention, and after a smile and short greeting, I was on my way.
This summer, I jumped out of the heat of my freshman year at UNL and into the corporate pool of the C&A Industries Internship Program. Before joining the company, I was nervous that I would be given too much to do and not know how to complete it or, even worse, I wouldn’t be taken seriously enough to handle such work and end up trying to prove myself through making copies. I would not have guessed that with the waves of projects I was appointed to take on, I would find a cool refreshment of continuous encouragement.
It’s no secret that this year’s interns are crazy about Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0. We’ve discussed it in professional development classes, presentations, and conversations with colleagues, and I couldn’t be happier to work with an organization that places value on acknowledging natural talent. In conjunction with the other four, my top strength of Responsibility characterizes me as an individual who takes a psychological ownership of my commitments. I have an innate love of being trusted with responsibilities and will do all that I can to execute them thoughtfully. Consequently, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that I gain confidence when given said responsibilities. The initial sting of worry that naturally comes over me before I have a chance to think through the task dissolves as I find excitement and validation in being granted with an opportunity, and I have an overarching boost in both my morale and quality of work.
When I think about defining parts of my internship experience, those that stand out the most are the feelings I had when being given, working toward, and accomplishing a project. One week before the C&A Industries Manager’s Meeting, the director of the internship program stopped by my desk to ask if I would give a presentation on my main project for The Kim Foundation (coordinating its first Mental Health Organizational Fair). Not a minute after she walked away from my cube, I began preparing and realized that I was more thankful than apprehensive. Having this two-fold opportunity to present myself and my project was exciting and showed the merit of the company’s internship program.
This internship has provided me with formative opportunities to grow in that “real world” every student hears about in the classroom but doesn’t necessarily have a chance to experience. Businesses are typically hesitant to take on younger, less experienced employees, but C&A sees that I can apply my education, passions, and skills meaningfully to create something valuable and learn a lot while I’m at it. Making a presentation to 70 managers and executives and coordinating an organizational fair for The Kim Foundation weren’t tasks I had to get done to prove my worth, but rather opportunities I really appreciated. Formally presenting my work, discussing event details with community service providers, receiving feedback, and taking in the underlying processes have given me a unique self-assurance that I won’t take for granted moving forward. The nature of the internship program at C&A Industries is one that fosters personal development alongside professional, contributing to a takeaway of qualities I wouldn’t have expected to be combined: appreciation and confidence.
Libby Stevenson is a sophomore at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, majoring in Psychology and Global Studies with minors in Spanish and Leadership and Communication. She is participating in the C&A Industries Internship Program, working mainly in The Kim Foundation with some experience in the training department, as well. Libby is passionate about leadership and community service, and loves spending time with her family and friends.