Intern LifeStudent Stories

Abracadabra! Making Opportunity Appear Out of Thin Air

Where there aren’t opportunities, you make them.

That is what I told myself as I found myself in the plaza of the City Hall of Rancho Cucamonga, turning in one of many job applications I’d filled out that day.  Before dropping off my application I went over my resume, triple-checking (as I unfortunately tend to do) that all of the information was correct.

I realized as I looked it over, that the most fulfilling experiences listed on this piece of paper were not necessarily the most lucrative ones. From volunteer literacy tutoring for young children to my brief, unpaid work as a campaign intern for former California State Senator Bob Dutton, I felt that I learned more about myself, my strengths and my weaknesses, outside of jobs where my primary goal was making money.

Not to knock making money as a primary job goal, because for any college student that’s definitely a priority! Still, I wanted—needed—something more.

In addition to my job applications, I had also been looking for internships, community service projects—anything that might offer me the chance to learn a new skill or to meet some new, well-connected people. However, the search can sometimes be difficult for an aspiring Political Science scholar. But then, it hit me… I was standing in a government institution this very moment!

The thought of being able to work with elected or appointed officials, to view up close the inner workings of my own home city’s government, was a very tempting possibility indeed.

And so I reminded myself that ‘where there aren’t opportunities, you make them’, and I strode up the short staircase to the City Manager’s Office—the office that is in charge of the administrative side of running a city, and the one which works closest to the City Council—where I inquired about any open positions for anyone in that office.

It seems like such a simple task. To walk into an office, up to a person, whom you’ve never seen or spoken with before, and to ask about open positions (paid or otherwise) in their organization, but as easy as it is said to be, many simply don’t do it. Many are intimidated by the thought of it, as though it were too bold and too spontaneous an action to be considered professional. Some hinder themselves by worrying about what they might say. For others, it can be a simple underlying fear of rejection.

Or maybe it is just the introvert in me talking, but I know that it was a good dose of nervousness I had to swallow before inquiring.

Still, it worked, and in spite of any nervousness that might crop up, I would certainly do it again. It was a memorable first impression I had made on my supervisor, coming out of the blue (and so politely!) the way I did. An emailed resume, a few phone calls, and an exciting interview later, I was suddenly the Administrative Intern for the City Manager’s Office, a position that no one in the office really thought to open before I had come to ask about it. If I hadn’t moved past my own particular set of anxieties, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to plan the programming for our local TV station, to sit in at meetings with the mayor and elected officials from the California State Congress, or to flex the event-planning skills and organizational skills I picked up at previous internships.

Simply put, it really pays off to move outside of your comfort zone to experience something new, to push yourself into a space where new opportunities await—especially those that weren’t present at all before you took that leap.

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Catherine L. Williams

Catherine L. Williams is a graduate student in Political Science at UCLA. She loves to write and perform her poetry, and has a love-hate relationship with pie. Follow her on Instagram at @msblackcat93!