My two-month internship at Philanthropy Ireland has been one of the most unique and influential experiences of my life. Not only was I working in a new country, but I was working in a sector that I never worked before. I arrived on the day of PI’s event Shaping Tomorrow’s World Today: Inspiring Future Leaders to Embrace Philanthropy. As a result, I had no transition day to adjust to the workplace. Instead, on the first day of my internship in a new country, I was thrown into the mix. The event itself was targeted at people my age, so Thelma and Éilis recruited my help in shaping the event. They engaged me with questions such as “what topics would you like to see addressed?” or “what would you want to get out of the event.” To my surprise, they took everything I said completely seriously. It was wonderful to see them value my thoughts and opinions, even if I didn’t quite know what I was doing. More importantly, it made me feel like I was actually contributing to something important; it made me feel like I was making a difference at PI and the community at large. Instead of being just the intern, I was front and center, engaging with the employees of PI. As the night unfolded, I helped set up the venue, greeted guests at the door and even sat in on round table discussions to facilitate discussion. Looking back at that day, I could not have been more fulfilled seeing the immediate impact I had on PI. Even though I worked an eleven hour day, I could not have been more excited for the rest of my time at PI because I knew I would actually be making a difference at an organization that values my work.
After the first day, I worked on numerous projects. As a result of the small size of the office, whatever small tasks Thelma and Éilis had to finish that day would often be sent over to me, meaning each day was new and interesting. There was always something new to learn. Instead of filling out spreadsheets day after day, something new was always waiting for me at PI. I spent a lot of my time, though, balancing these small projects with larger projects I had more autonomy over. Some of these larger projects included researching potential speakers for our upcoming events, researching foundations for funding, editing and designing power points and news letters, and even brainstorming projects for a funding proposal. Thelma and Éilis even provided me the opportunity to attend meetings, something that you can’t really learn in school.
Thelma and Éilis also taught me valuable information as I continue to grow as a young professional. While these next two points may not be profound or unique to me, they are valuable lessons that I learned from my time at PI. First, do not be afraid to ask questions and ask for feedback. A successful intern is one who is engaged in his work and has good communication skills. While I worried often about asking too many questions or being too much of a burden on my co-workers, it is always better to speak up and bounce ideas off of co-workers. Secondly, you must be proactive about asking for work. While your co-workers may have projects for you to work on, they will not know how fast you’re working or how many projects you can handle. When it comes to internships, it is up to you how much you want to get out of it. While it may be easy to sit back and work on one project at a time, if you really want to gain valuable skills to achieve success, you must be proactive.
Over time, my relationship with Thelma, Éilis and the PI board transformed from a mentor/mentee into something more profound. They welcomed me to the country of Ireland and PI, imparting to me valuable knowledge and wisdom I will certainly use going forward in my life and future career.
Thank you to Thelma, Éilis and the PI community for giving me the opportunity to learn and work. It has been a once in a lifetime experience!