The Pursuit of (Salaried) Happiness
“Others may question your credentials, your papers, your degrees. But what is inside you no one can take from you or tarnish.” – Chris Gardner, The Pursuit of Happyness
Gardner’s memoir describes his struggle with poverty and homelessness toiling as an unpaid stockbroker trainee. Anyone who’s read the memoir (or seen the accompanying film starring Will Smith) knows that achieving anything requires a strong sense of self-worth – something Gardner had plenty of, even in an against-all-odds situation.
Though the memoir and film were both released before the recession hit, the story mirrors much of what’s occurring in the U.S. job market today. While belief in oneself is central to any inspiring tale, job seekers in 2014 know it takes more much more than confidence to secure employment. With financial concerns growing among recent grads, the pursuit of (salaried) happiness is something we can’t afford to take lightly.
I’d like to say that my solid sense of self catapulted me from intern to employee, but that would only present a fraction of what it took for me to get there. Looking back, I can say definitively that these steps were crucial to solidifying my place as a full-time employee.
1. Owning your role. Interns are essential moving parts in a well-oiled company, so act like it. You are necessary. Remove that ‘low on the totem pole’ mindset and know that your job matters, paycheck or not. Everyone above you was once in a similar position, so feel comfortable enough to interact with others, network, and become part of the fabric of an organization. Those you don’t know will assume you’re an employee, and the people you do know will recognize what a perfect fit you are for the company.
2. Reaching for more. Even if it appears that there’s little need for another regular at the office, create responsibilities for yourself that go beyond your internship duties. Take time to really understand the ins and outs of the organization, and make note of areas that need improvement. I say need because you have to establish a sense of urgency. Often, execs aren’t even aware that there are areas lacking attention. Offer to tackle those challenges in addition to your assigned tasks.
3. Keeping it real. Remain transparent. I knew what I wanted well before I clicked ‘apply’ and I expressed that clearly in my interview and subsequent conversations. Don’t hesitate to suggest that you could prove valuable to the company beyond the parameters of an internship, even if it’s only planting an iota of thought in the minds of your supervisors. When my internship came to a close, it was almost a no-brainer to bring me on in a full-time capacity.
Note: this is not to equate money with happiness; rather, to equate stability with happiness. Gardner knew what he was talking about when he recommended developing your self-worth – financial security lends itself to increased self-esteem. Think of your internship like Gardner’s training program: not only a platform for internal growth and career development, but a gateway to a lifetime of salaried happiness.