Established in 2006, the Vision and Call internship program is built on the belief that life’s longer lessons, the ideas that shape commitment and souls, are often best learned through an apprenticeship experience and worked out through a community of mentors and peers. Each internship experience is expected to incorporate six essentials elements. In a special blog post series, current Vision and Call organizational leaders share their insight into the value and importance of these essential elements.
Today’s guest post is by Aaron Sands, Co-Founder and Director of Operations, Blood:Water and John Franklin, Program Director, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. They speak to us about Essential 4 – Conducting Intentional Conversations About “Vocation and Calling”
The transition from student to professional can be one of the most exciting, yet also jarring seasons in an individual’s lifetime. Many students work part time or full time while also balancing a full class load, so it is not adjusting to the workplace that can be such a significant step, but rather the mental shift.
Students completing a college degree have effectively spent two decades with the classroom as their primary focus. While this time involves its fair share of significant decisions, taking the first step into a full-time career can carry intense pressure.
- Pressure to have your life path “figured out” and know for certain what you want to do 5, 15 or 25 years from now.
- Pressure to match your peers as they launch into their own careers. We often see many recent grads struggling with stress as former classmates appear to have dream jobs while they may still be defining their path.
- Pressure to make the “right” choices.
It is important to not dismiss this pressure as early career decisions do carry weight for the immediate (3-5 year) future of the professional, but it’s also important that recent grads have the opportunity to strike a balance and see this first step as just that – a single step in a much longer life path.
It is for this reason that the Vision and Call Internship Program places significant emphasis on fostering Intentional Conversations About the Vocation and Calling of the individual.
Interns are drinking from a firehose when they begin their career – both in trying to learn the ins and outs of the organization and their responsibilities, but also their career. It can be easy to become overwhelmed in that moment and struggle with the weight of such pressure. Throughout their time with our organizations, we make a point to set aside time to have thoughtful, personal conversations with our interns as to their personal goals and career direction.
These conversations serve both the individual and the organization. By helping our interns see the multiple paths in front of them and reinforce that they do not need to worry about the road seven years from now, just their next step or two, it greatly reduces the stress they feel and allows them to bring a greater focus and energy to their work. As a result, we see a more engaged, more creative, more confident team member who brings a greater contribution to our work.
Depending on the size of an organization, interns may also feel a new sense of disconnection to their team. After working in a classroom environment where professors, graduate assistants and administrators (“management”) were accessible through email and office hours, moving to a professional environment where interns only interact with a small number of mid-to-lower level employees can create a sense of isolation.
When we talk about an intern’s vocation and calling – what path they want to walk and how they want to feel connected to their faith – it brings down barriers that can often be set up in a professional environment and invites connection between the intern and leaders at all levels of the organization.
We establish a team mindset by reinforcing that we care more about who this person is as an individual and not just a source of inexpensive labor. Again, these conversations provide benefits to both the intern and the organization.
By providing space to discuss the personal goals of the intern and the calling they feel inside themselves, we have an opportunity to help direct them to meaningful projects that will help them flourish and grow. Yes, there are days where the leaves need to be raked or the coffee needs to be made, but there can also be days where they get to sit in as part of a team presenting a marketing concept or deploy a new accounting software update. Because they know that we are investing in who they are as an individual, they feel comfortable bringing an openness and enthusiasm to their work that uplifts the entire organization.
Internships are not meant to simply offer inexpensive labor for a fancy line on a resume. Internships are designed to provide meaningful work experience to help grow the careers of recent graduates while providing valuable labor and support to the organization they serve.
Truly meaningful experiences start when both the individual and organization invest in a deeper connection than the simple exchange of labor for a compensation. By investing in deep, thoughtful conversations about the individual’s vocation and calling, an internship can be a far more robust and rewarding experience for all involved.