From Intern to Employee: How changing the overall view can change not only the journey but the outcome

As I look back on my Sports Commission journey from intern to Executive Coordinator, I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people and experience so many wonderful events.  The Kansas City Sports Commission is truly the sports link between everything sports related going on in Kansas City, and I am excited about the direction the organization is going with the evolving We Bring It mindset.

2014FallInterns_signs_325That being said, as my roles and responsibilities have widened, my previous experience provided a good baseline to manage and grow the internship program.  I was humbled and excited to mentor these peers along their journey, since I had just walked in their shoes a short time ago.  I’ve had the pleasure to work with many sports-minded individuals throughout the year who are ready to learn and jump in wherever needed.  These interns provide the Sports Commission with so much of their time and hard work that I felt it was crucial for us to make sure their internship was valuable.

Individuals who are at the end of their education are looking for every chance to connect and gain experience even if that sometimes comes without a paycheck.  They step up to the plate knowing that the opportunity will amount to valuable knowledge come game time.  Sports is an ever changing industry that looks glamorous to the outside world, but on the other side of the fence, there are long hours, bumps, and bruises, but at the end of the day the ride is rewarding.  With all this in mind, I was thrilled to be given the chance to refine the intern program by organizing Community Partner meetings and mentoring the interns for success.

2015_Fall_Interns_Parade_300Having just been an intern myself, I felt like it would be beneficial to set up meetings with different people in various sectors of the sports industry.  With the Sports Commission impacting various aspects of the Kansas City Community within sports, we were able to call on our Community Partners for this opportunity.

I set up meetings to provide our interns with an organic opportunity to network, ask questions, create connections, and experience what else can be done within the sports industry.  Our interns either meet with one individual or with a group to learn about their different career paths and their current role within the organization/company.  Many times networking can come across negatively or daunting to someone coming into a city full of powerful people.

In my mind, these meetings could open the door to allow for our interns to develop connections with those individuals in sports.  These meetings have evolved to being one of the most enjoyed parts of the internship.

The Community Partner meetings become the building blocks for our interns to take the initiative in making most of their time with us and setting themselves up for success.  The networking becomes more about building authentic relationships verse the one-sided approach of “how can you help me?”.

Looking back one of the biggest pieces of advice I received, as a young, excited female ready to create a career, was to change the mindset from “it’s about who you know” to “it’s about who knows YOU.”  This is not only a phrase that has changed the way I see networking and creating connections, but every opportunity in general.

2016Spring_Interns_MayorA connection is only as strong as the person that you need to know you.  If Mr. Smith cannot recognize my name, then he is definitely not going to be able to provide a good recommendation of me as a person or of my work.  From the beginning stages of our internship, I emphasis our interns the importance of changing this mindset.  They then see their work differently as well.  Projects, appearance, daily tasks, and personality begin to flow into the question, “How do I want to be viewed?”

It becomes more about my brand, and how I want others to view me.  Individuals begin to dress for the job they want, and begin taking advantage of EVERY opportunity that presents itself.  Every situation comes with some sort of take-away, whether bad, good, a new connection can be made, individuals learn what they like, what they do not like, etc.  It becomes their job to create a network and show the outward appearance of who they want to be.

The city can seem so big until the spider web of a network brings it all together.  It turns into a community, and becomes smaller with each person met.  Their connections become your connections.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone for a cup of coffee.  The worst they can say is no.  Leave an impression.  People are human and are humbled by the fact that you find either them or what they do interesting.  One of my favorite quotes that I think holds a lot of meaning in today’s day and age is, “your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark.”

The program has evolved to more of a mentorship verse the traditional internship.  Our interns are given tools to make the most of their experience and tailor it to their needs.   It’s very much you will get out of it what you put in.  At the Sports Commission we empower the interns to take initiative, accept responsibility, be humbly confident in their ideas, and not be afraid to ask or pitch something new.

2015Summer_Interns_Fun_500x340Each time that I wrap up an Exit Interview with an intern, it is a bittersweet moment.  I am proud to have seen their progression and passion blossom throughout their semester.  The feedback I receive from each individual only makes the future of the internship program better.  To see this side of our organization grow and flourish makes me enthusiastic of where it can be taken.

The exit interviews are always finished with the question: Did this internship meet your expectations, why or why not?  I have yet to hear an answer other than, above and beyond.  It’s hard to come into a new experience, especially knowing you are an intern with set expectations.

As the manager of this program, I would hate for it to be shy of any expectation, but the fact that the interns come in unsure of where the three months will lead them, and express that it provided more than they were expecting, puts a smile on my face.

To see the internship program evolve to where it is now, and have the opportunity shape candidates for their future endeavors, makes me happy to know that I (and we) assisted in their journey. To all my previous (and future) interns, thank you for not only allowing me to help shape your future, but also helping shape mine.

by Katelyn Schmidtberger, Executive Coordinator