Don’t you love those? If you remember part one from last week, you’ll know I’m sharing the story of my ideal internship during my final year of college – lake views and shopping all day with image consultant extraordinaire Linda Thomas!
Day one. Walk in. Sit down. Super excited. Huge smile on my face. I ask, “When is our first shopping client?” Linda replied, “Today and I really want you to pay attention and see how you like it. Really think through how the day goes and we will talk about how you feel afterward, okay?”
In my head I was thinking, “Of course I am going to love this. I was born to do this. I am going to knock your socks off!” I’m sure I was about to squeal with delight and excitement.
It’s 10am and we are headed to one of my favorite department stores in one of my favorite areas of Dallas. I felt so important. All the employees knew Linda. We got to go in the back where all the stylists went. We even had stylists there to assist if needed. This was a very important client.
As the day progresses, I remember Linda’s words. I was to “pay attention to how I felt during the appointment and see how it goes.” What I notice is two hours had passed and the client hadn’t selected anything we chose for her. I also notice the client isn’t particularly pleasant. I fight the negative feelings that were creeping in. Maybe she’s having a rough day. I’m hopeful the next few hours will be more exciting.
Those hours pass slowly as we add three shoe people and two additional stylists to the mix to try to make the client happy. The dressing room looks like we pulled the entire department store in it and flipped it on its head. I’m feeling exhausted, not empowered, and the morning’s enthusiasm is waning.
Realism Meets Enthusiasm
The client left with one dress and one blouse. Eight hours for a dress and a blouse that I’m not sure she even really liked. I wanted to change lives with clothing. I wanted to show people what great looks like. I wanted to work with people who were open to learning and who wanted and needed help. This appointment was not that! My mind was racing. What did I get myself into? How will I possibly be able to do another 392 hours of this? I remember wondering if this was really what I want to do with my life. Uh-oh. I have no other path. OMG!
As we get into the car, Linda asks, “So, tell me. How do you think that went?” It’s my first day. I can’t show her my crazy! I reply, “It was an experience.” “An experience,” she says. “Tell me more.”
So, I just let her in. I tell her exactly what was going on in my head. At this point, I’m thinking she isn’t going to want to ride with crazy all the way back to Lake Dallas. Since Lyft wasn’t a thing in 2009, I figured I might have to walk back or call my husband for a ride. Plus, now I’ll have to find another internship. How could I spend 392 more hours in that kind of misery?
After I get it all out, Linda smiled and said. “Great. I am really glad those are your thoughts.” To say I was stunned at her response would be an understatement. She then said, “Trips like these are rare in my business and I, like you, want to inspire people. I want to work with people who are open to learning. I want to help them learn about the messages they send with their clothes. I want to teach people what to wear and how to wear it. How to create a positive impression from the time a person walks into a room. That is what I really do. I am a speaker. I speak to groups all over, some small and some large, and that is also what I want you to do. Your first gig is in three days. Don’t worry. You can do this. I’ll be with you every step of the way. We will speak together on the four generations in the workplace. You will be the Gen Y because that is who you are and I am a Baby Boomer. You’ll need to study over the next couple of days. I have the bullet points for you to cover and I know you will be amazing. I wouldn’t have hired you if I didn’t think you could do it.”
I am pretty sure my eyes were really big. I had never done true public speaking, but I had no other choice. I wanted to learn from her, I trusted her, and I decided I was in this thing. This was my summer internship. I could do it.
The Moment of Truth
Thursday came. I had studied hard. This was the first of many presentations I did with Linda over the course of my internship. She hired me in the fall of 2009 and we continued our joint seminars through 2010 until I graduated and landed my dream corporate job as a trainer with a large retailer.
I consider myself one of the lucky ones. Many of my friends who chose 400 hour internships in New York, LA, and downtown Dallas didn’t land dream jobs. I say this not to impress you, but rather to impress upon you how important it is to appreciate your current season. You never know what the next season may hold.
The Moral of the Story
“They” (those on the outside who tell you to go to college), should also be telling you about hands on training. Working side by side with someone makes all the difference.
An internship with any job can be one of the most valuable things you do for not only your career but for yourself. The time I spent with Linda, every time, was mentorship and real-life experience. There’s no amount of money or time that could match the value of those 400 hours. I would have worked 10,000 hours for free with her. Being trained by the expert on the thing you want to do is very valuable.
Once you get that training, pay it forward. Find someone to train who is open, wants to grow and learn, and works hard. If I hadn’t had the mentorship of someone who would stand side by side with me, show me the way, believe in me, take me through a fail experience, and then show me a win experience, I doubt I would be here today working for TrainerTainment.
That 400 hour internship changed the trajectory of my life. When I came back to school the next semester, I was a totally different person. I had a tough professor and even she asked, “What happened to you?” I was so different others noticed.
Linda believed in me at a level I had not experienced before. I had someone other than my parents telling me I was great. Linda helped me believe I could do more and be more than I thought. She helped me out of the goodness of her heart. She was always ready to share the spotlight not just with me, but with everyone. I will continue her legacy.
I encourage you to visualize your dream job. Work with someone already in that job. Take others with you. Decide that whether not a leader has your back, your peers are