Intern - a coffee-brewing, copy-making, “paying your dues” kind of low-on-the-totem-pole job.
Before I ever looked for an internship, these were the stereotypes that ran through my head. I knew an internship would offer me the opportunity to get my foot in the door at a company, to take a stab at the working world, and to hopefully make connections that would help me in my job search come graduation. Not to mention it was required for my major.
But I was also reticent about the fact that I could potentially intern for an amazing company only to end up being assigned menial tasks that no one else wanted to do. Even if they promised to care about me (as a person and as a colleague), how could I be sure that I would be doing meaningful work? I didn’t want to just make coffee – I wanted to make a difference.
Turns out with my internship at DistinXion, I got to do both.
As someone who had never in her life played basketball, I wondered how I could come into an organization centered around the sport and actually be able to contribute. Little did I know that DistinXion doesn’t just focus on making your weaknesses stronger. In fact, quite the opposite: DistinXion focuses on cultivating the strengths you already have so that you can be the best version of you there is.
When everyone is the best version of themselves, each person’s weaknesses can be compensated for in someone else’s strengths, and we rise as individuals and as an organization.
Because of this strength mindset, no one cared that I had never been able to dribble a basketball and run at the same time. They valued what I could bring to the table, not what I would take away from it. They knew there would be others on the team who had played basketball their whole lives, and could coach technique really well. We would each be allowed to pursue those aspects of the organization that we were good at – I happened to be a strong writer and liked to plan the fundraising, so DistinXion utilized those strengths to put me where I would develop them further and succeed. Others were good marketers and organized the social media promotion; others developed ideas for our CHAMPIONS program and youth camps. Instead of placing us in areas of weakness and setting us up for failure, we were placed in areas of strength to set us up for success.
To go hand in hand with this, DistinXion also has a family, “how can I help you?” mentality. Just because we were given our respective tasks didn’t mean that we couldn’t interact with each other and help with other projects. Our strengths didn’t act as silos – when something needed to be done, we all chipped in, whether we were particularly good at it or not.
For example, at DistinXion, everyone comes to the youth camps to help run them. Usually this looks like coaching, running stations, and giving talks outlining the C.H.A.M.P.I.O.N.S. acronym. As an athlete, I particularly liked to run the core station, and toward the end we all got pretty good at giving the talks. With that, I was still given an assistant coach position, even though basketball isn’t my strong suit. The head coach of my team knew basketball like the back of their hand, and I was there to get the kids to have fun and give them love and attention. We all knew that the camps had to be run well, which led to each of us stepping in wherever was needed to make sure that happened.
In the office, too, we would approach tasks with a similar spirit. If coffee needed to be made, it wasn’t automatically an intern’s job just because we were at the “bottom of the hierarchy”. In fact, more often than not, it was a staff member who brewed the pot of coffee because they happened to be the one in the kitchen when it was empty. No task was too menial for staff to chip in, and no project was too complex for an intern’s opinion to be valued.
If you want an internship where you’ll be asked to do the grunt work – the dishwashing, coffee brewing, and office organizing, you should come to DistinXion. But if you also want an internship where your ideas matter, your personal well-being is top priority, and your skillset will be challenged and strengthened, you should still come to DistinXion. Never in my life have I felt so immediately valued as an equal, and never in my life have I felt so built up to succeed.
This May, I will graduate from Indiana University after interning with DistinXion for almost a year. I don’t know where I’m going or what I’ll be doing, but I do know that because of DistinXion, I know what I’m looking for, and I know I won’t fail.