At College for Social Innovation, we know that our first jobs and internships shaped our futures and cultivated our passion for social sector work. These experiences are the reason we are here today! The beginning of summer marks the start of similar experiences for college students everywhere—experiences that will open doors of opportunity and launch inspiring careers. In this blog series, our staff will tell the stories of their own first internships, sharing advice, memories, and appreciation for their earliest professional experiences.
Katie Richardson is our Director of Recruitment and Enrollment! She is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and has built a career working with nonprofits focused on education, experiential learning, youth and leadership development, and service. Katie is responsible for connecting students with transformational learning experiences in Semester in the City, as well as growing the pipeline of diverse and well-qualified talent for the social sector. Here, Katie is able to combine her passions and have an impact by inspiring and delighting students through engaging internships.
What made you interested in this type of work?
During my senior year at UNH, I completed an internship at the local United Way. I spent a few days a week with the organization and I was fortunate to work under a smart and dedicated mentor who was the Director of the Volunteer Action Center (VAC). Most of my work involved facilitating connections between people seeking volunteer opportunities and organizations seeking volunteers, as well as coordinating a regional, annual food drive. I was also invited to attend staff and board meetings, and had the priviledge of representing the organization at community events. During the internship, I had numerous opportunities to develop myself professionally and grow my network.
I gained many professional skills from my projects at the United Way, including volunteer recruitment, event management, and more. Most importantly, my internship at the United Way taught me two valuable lessons that shaped the next steps of my early career:
First, it showed me how wide the “social sector” is and the breadth of mission-based organizations doing impactful work.
Second, I was exposed to the variety of career paths available within the social sector. While I was at the United Way, there were two other interns from UNH—one a Communications major and one a Finance major. I realized that while we represented diverse areas of study we all had value to contribute, reasons to find their work meaningful, and potential ways to build careers in the nonprofit or social sectors.
Ultimately, my internship supervisor encouraged me to apply to serve as an AmeriCorps member with City Year New Hampshire after college. I did, and it was a life-changing experience. I ended up staying with City Year New Hampshire for six years. I learned a ton, developed a deep professional and personal network, identified my professional values, and built the foundation for my career. I’m so grateful for my internship experience, the guidance of my mentor, and the direction and foundation it provided me.
What is one piece of advice you would give to students in their first internship?
I consistently saw models of volunteerism and community involvement while growing up: My mom was a teacher and I had multiple educators in my family. I didn’t realize until later in life how much that impacted my idea of what I wanted to do with my career and what jobs might be available for me.
For a long time, I envisioned a career as a teacher or school counselor. It wasn’t until college that I began to understand that the “social sector” was much more broad and that it was possible to have a meaningful, impactful career that could take many different forms. My experiences studying Psychology and Social Work, interning at the United Way, and serving as an AmeriCorps member all confirmed for me that I value a career rooted in social impact/mission-driven work. It also helped me see that I love working with young people, and that I want to work alongside colleagues who care deeply about their work and are invested in making an impact.
What I love most about recruitment work is getting the privilege of hearing people’s stories and having the opportunity to connect great people with great opportunities. I see it as a way to expand my impact through others.
What was your first job experience like?
Take advantage of everything available to you! If there are projects, people, or meetings that are of interest to you, ask to be involved with them. You’re in a really unique position where you are not expected to be an expert and people know you are there to learn. Your colleagues will be excited to include you in things, share their work with you, answer your questions, and tell you their stories.