As I write this, I am sitting in the back of my 2001 Subaru Forester, hair blowing in my face because the windows are down (the AC doesn’t work and it is 93 degrees). My dad is driving and listening to some podcast while my mom is transitioning between her “healthy lifestyle” books, eating cherries, and napping. We left home this morning around 7am and are currently somewhere near Indianapolis (in rush-hour traffic). As many of you reading this may already know, I am headed to Colorado Springs, CO for the remainder of the summer and this first day of driving across the country from Upstate, NY is just the beginning of this new adventure.
Back in January of this year it. occurred to me that in about a year and 4 months I would be a college graduate. I would be heading out into the real world, buying a little apartment, paying my own bills and (hopefully) living the dream of a professional graphic designer in a big firm. Great. But scary. The second thought that occurred to me was that, in order to graduate and live the dream, I needed an internship. I needed one somewhere close to my school in Rochester that I could do during the semester, and get credit for. Lucky for me, my graphic design professor loved me and was once a big on-demand designer in Rochester. “No worries” she told me- she had connections.
By March I was starting to worry- my professor, assuring as she was, was not going to help. Her “connections” had either retired years ago or did’t need designers. So here I was, just before my 20th birthday in panic-mode. My type-A personality was in overdrive. I NEEDED an internship and I was ready to do just about anything to get one.
Step 1 in the internship-search process was writing a resume and cover letter. With no one but google to help me, I got writing. Who is going to want a designer who hadn’t even seen an Adobe program until eight months ago? Much less, coming from a tiny school in western NY. Since I literally had nothing to loose, I made my resume super weird. (Still professional in my opinion, but weird.) It was two pages in shades of teal and brown with a year- old headshot of me in the corner. Little graphic icons danced around the page and my favorite two fonts were layout neatly. At least someone might remember me as the girl with the unique resume.
Step no. two was finding internships. I spent almost every night, after hours of homework from my 21 credit course-load googling internships. The inner INTJ- Ella came out hard core (Myers Briggs reference there). I applied to almost every design and marketing firm in Rochester for a fall '16 internship. When no one responded within a day or two my logic told me that I wasn't going to find anything so it would be best to apply for summer '16 internships. So I did that, but didn't limit myself to Rochester this time.
I was pretty desperate. I remember talking on the phone with my boyfriend one night, talking about how he was looking forward to the summer, having me close (I was planning on working a basic job in Rochester over the summer because I'm a broke college kid and my tiny town doesn't have temporary jobs for people like me). || side note here: I've previously worked at a summer camp in the adks, I love love love being outdoors, but had settled in the fact that that outdoorsy, free spirited period of my life was coming to a close.|| Anyways, while having this conversation, I was sending my resume to a marketing firm in London while researching another firm based in Australia. If someone didn't know me, they could have made a case for OCD I think.
So there I was, not long after my birthday, stressed as ever, sitting in my photography class one Wednesday afternoon and opened a snapchat from my best friend of her little sister listening to "Adventures in Odyssey". While in class, (another desperate act) I applied to Focus on the Family- the firm which is like the parent of Odyssey. Since I was in class, I didn't even bother looking if they had an internship program. Desperate as I was, i sent them an email with my resume and cover letter. With it I wrote some note along the lines of " hi, I'm ella. I'm a good person, an aspiring designer and in need on an internship. Here's my stuff. If you like me, hire me." That was that.
About a week later, I got an email from a small group in Rochester who got my name from one of the larger firms I had applied to. The small group was run by an Ex- NFL player whose vision was to give inner city kids hope for their futures and motivation to pursue higher education. The email said that they were very interested in me, wanted to interview me and they would pay me quite a bit of money per week if I intern with them.
While it wasn't the big firm I was dreaming of interning with, I was pretty soaked. About a week later, I found myself parking Syd the Subaru in a big (kind of sketchy) parking garage in downtown Rochester, praying that the battery wouldn't be dead after the interview (it was about -10 degrees and good old Syd's battery hadn't been very reliable lately). I stepped out of the car wearing a long black pea coat, blue peplum dress (for those of you who don't know what that is- just picture a blue professional-looking dress), black tights, black heels, and red-wine lipstick. In my hand was a big black portfolio with my best design pieces organized perfectly. I was on my way to my first interview.
The building I interviewed in was an old apt. building with graffiti depicting a mermaid stabbing some sort of sea creature on it. I was already in love. I was let in by the marketing director who led me up to the offices where he showed me around and met a media intern.
The interview went well, I acted as professional as I could and it was over before I knew it. The group seemed great, definitely not what I had imagined when applying for internships, but it looked good. On top of that, they paid well- and basically offered me the job on the spot.
While in the interview I had heard my phone buzzing in my purse- someone was trying to call me. I was pretty embarrassed, but I'm pretty sure no one else noticed. In the elevator on the way out, I noticed I had a voicemail from Colorado Springs Colorado. Who the heck do I know that lives there? I listened to the voicemail and was astonished to hear a high pitched voice asking to set up an interview with me for focus on the family! They had gotten my email and was impressed with my resume.
(For those of you wondering, my car's battery did not die and I was so excited about how good the interview went that I started driving out the wrong side of the parking garage. Luckily the guy collecting the parking fee was nice, and must have noticed how happy I was because he didn't give me a hard time at all and we ended up having a short conversation about interviews and jobs.)
Two days later, in my dorm, after my 10am art history class, I sat on my futon in gym pants and a sweatshirt waiting for a phone call from Colorado Springs, Colorado. It came. I interviewed with two friendly ladies, one who was heading up the summer intern program, and the other who was the head graphic designer at FOTF (abbreviations will now be used.)
Long story short, that interview went super great. The next day I got a call saying that I had the internship if I wanted it, and two days after that, I accepted. I was going to Colorado to intern with a big, globally known firm in their graphic design department. My title would be: "graphic design and production artist intern". My office would be overlooking Pikes Peak, and I would be in an area saturated with outdoorsy things to do like rock climbing, hiking, write water rafting,... You get the idea. Pineapple blesses my heart, but I gotta say, my heart was pretty #blessed after accepting this position.
I emailed the group in Rochester, requesting to post-pone my internship until the fall, which I assumed if they liked me enough that they would do (which they did). Within the next month, I heard back from two other firms I had emailed during the panic phase. They wanted to interview me, but I turned them down, which was more satisfying than it probably should have been.
I finished up the end of my junior year with two internships lined up for myself before graduation and a whole lot of stress gone. I guess making a weird, artsy resume and applying to a gazillion places was worth it. The stress really wasn't though. All it took for the FOTF internship to come about was my best friend sending me a snapchat of her 5 year old sister listening to Odyssey. God certainly has his own creative way of opening doors in my life.
So here I am, day no. 1 into my summer adventure- reflecting on the crazy steps I've taken to get here and #blessed beyond belief- just about as much as I would be with a bowl of fresh pineapple sitting in front of me.