The Give & Take of the Internship Experience

Lili LjubicicIf you’ve ever been fortunate enough to find yourself in a situation where you’re surrounded by a group of people of varying levels of expertise, experiences, skills and abilities, who are all willing to be open and learn from each other, then you know it’s rich ground for growth and development.

That’s the environment that fourth-year, MIT Honors Specialization student Lily Ljubicic found herself in this past summer when she interned as part of the marketing team with The Next 36, a Canadian initiative that seeks out young entrepreneurs and provides them with mentorship, funding, and other support to launch their ventures.

“This internship meant more to me than just having something to add to my resume. Not only did I gain the experience I was looking for working in a professional environment, but I also felt that my confidence grew as I worked alongside people who cared to hear my input on ideas and on our projects,” said Ljubicic of her time with the company.

Ljubicic, who is approaching graduation from the Faculty of Information & Media Studies’ (FIMS) Media, Information & Technoculture (MIT) program in April, said she decided to complete an internship because she wanted professional experience, but also because she needed some exposure to industry to help her decide what future direction she should focus on.

Although she’s interested in marketing as a broad field, Ljubicic said that the idea of exploring something totally unknown to her – entrepreneurship – was very appealing. She was also very keen to start applying her education in MIT to concrete activities outside of the classroom.

“After three years of studying concepts and theories of consumer behaviour and media industries in MIT, I felt that I was ready to apply this background understanding to the ‘real world,’ and get a better grasp at how all of these ideas we’ve discussed in class really play out in the marketing – and business – environment. Pursuing an internship seemed like an appropriate way to tie class concepts into a professional setting.”

Ljubicic said her background in MIT gave her a unique perspective and insight into marketing that was valuable in her role with The Next 36. She was able to contribute in ways that went beyond the simple execution of tasks and assignments.

“I felt that I brought the critical awareness and open-mindedness of a young student to my employer. MIT has especially ignited these qualities in me, because our classes constantly urge us to be critical of our media and our society,” she explained.
 
“The university environment itself demands students to be open to new ideas and theories and to always look at situations from various critical angles, rather than take things at face value. I felt that the tasks I approached in my internship demonstrated these qualities in myself, when I gave my insight on our marketing plans, or when I contacted our top prospects and corresponded with them through email.”

Ljubicic’s internship experience demonstrates what the faculty strives for when it sends students out to work with employers. The goal for students involved with the FIMS Internship Program is that they will find themselves in a give and take with their employer, said Kathie Hess, Manager of Undergraduate Student Services in FIMS.

“Students are hoping for a substantive internship, with lots of opportunity to grow, gain new experiences and contribute their ideas. But employers should also be able to draw on the unique educational background and strengths of our students and really gain from their presence,” explained Hess.

Ljubicic, who worked at a smaller company with a staff of 10 people, found that there were advantages to being with a smaller outfit. She said she was able to witness the daily roles of her co-workers in greater detail, and was also given more opportunity to provide input into the marketing portfolio.

She also discovered that internships can offer things that go beyond hard skills and abilities in the business place. For students who are willing to see the bigger picture, other life lessons can sneak into the experience.

“One constant message was that The Next 36 emphasized the value of exploring entrepreneurship with failure being a perfectly acceptable outcome. Although I do not want to pursue entrepreneurship, I found at the end of my internship that being surrounded by these ambitious young entrepreneurs who were comfortable with the notion of failure, made me more comfortable in my own pursuits too,” explained Ljubicic.

“The mentors constantly encouraged the entrepreneurs to take risks, step outside their comfort zone, and especially, to not undermine their potential; I came to understand that entrepreneurship is not just a career path – it is a mindset.”

Ljubicic said she would recommend the internship program to other MIT and MPI students, knowing that others are at the same stage she was and feel ready to apply the concepts and theories they’ve been learning in class to a professional setting. She concluded that part of the excitement of an internship is discovering the multitude of ways that these theories can be applied to the real world.

“Having that underlying understanding of society, of culture, that MIT prepares you with, students are able to look at these real experiences from a unique lens; and it shows in the ideas you come up with and put on the table once you’re at your internship.”

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Are you an alumna/alumnae interested in providing valuable internship opportunities to our current students? If so, we’d love to hear from you. We’re always looking for new and exciting places to send our students to, so please get in touch via:

Undergraduate Internship Program
fims-uginternship@uwo.ca

Master of Media in Journalism & Communication Internship Program
Jeremy Copeland (Internship Coordinator)
jcopela4@uwo.ca