How to Design a Fulfilling Career
There’s quite a bit of talk these days about surrounding yourself with things that bring you joy. And it makes sense. Being in such an environment is bound to inspire creativity, help us focus, and keep us feeling happy. What if there was a way to approach your career with this mindset? How can we track what brings us joy and apply this knowledge toward a career that’ll help us feel creative, focused, and happy?
Internships are a great way to start your journey toward finding a fulfilling career. The process of testing out jobs can give you a lot of information about your professional preferences, including what brings you joy (and what fails to). This article explores how to approach your internship search in a way that helps you get the most out of your experiences and illuminates your path to a joyful career.
The internship search
If you’re thinking about your career and potential internship opportunities, pressure is a feeling you’re probably familiar with. There may be many what-if scenarios running through your mind—an understandable response to a high-pressure situation. To ease your nerves and start getting a plan in place, do some upfront thinking to design your ideal internship experience (and don’t forget to bring an open mind and some good old-fashioned imagination).
For example, envision the role, environment, team, and culture you want to be a part of in an ideal world. Consider what you want out of an internship by making a list of your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and most importantly, what excites you. Explore all opportunities, even if they feel outlandish or a bit outside your comfort zone. This is the time to dream big—try new things and learn about what brings you the most satisfaction and meaning. Remember, this part of the process is your way of brainstorming the ideal internship and manifesting it.
Once you’ve visualized what your dream internship could look like, consider other factors, such as timing and the underlying reasons for applying to certain positions. Try not to let the stress of finding a job get in the way of your decision. Give yourself ample time to research what’s out there and make sure it aligns with your needs and expectations. Without time, you’ll invariably feel the pressure to make a decision, often ignoring your true desires for the sake of a deadline.
Next, understand why you’re applying to certain positions. While you may have baseline reasons for wanting a job, like wanting to keep up with your peers, we encourage you to dig a little deeper. You may be applying to an internship to ensure a job at the end of the summer or to learn specific on-the-job skills that’ll help get you the next job you’re shooting for. The point here is to be clear about your intentions and motivations—both you and your employer will appreciate the honesty.
An intern’s perspective
To make this process feel a bit more concrete, meet James McGinley, a 23-year-old product design engineer from Edinburgh. James applied to Autodesk Impact Internships, a program where internships with a variety of global nonprofits are available for participating students. James interned at Simprints, a nonprofit tech startup in Cambridge, UK, building biometric solutions for developing countries. More specifically, James was hired to design and prototype a fingerprint scanner for newborns and children under four that could potentially assist in global vaccination and nutrition campaigns.
Like many of you, James followed his own journey to find an internship, and there were many reasons that drove him to apply to Simprints. “I was always interested in how technology can help human beings and was driven by how this can be done to help less developed countries. Simprints stood out as a great nonprofit technology company doing exactly this with an upfront and honest approach to tackling these issues. From the team, their headquarters in the oldest building in Cambridge (a castle!), to the project described in the internship—it all made me excited.” This encapsulates the feeling you should be tapping into. If a project, team, or mission sound exciting, follow that excitement! It may lead you to your next internship. And if you give it a shot and find it fails to live up to that initial excitement, then at least the experience has informed you on what doesn’t spark your passion.
While Simprints grabbed James’ attention, there were some aspects of the internship that made him think twice about whether he was the right guy for the job. “There were areas of work at Simprints I knew little to nothing about. This made it easy for me to question whether I had the knowledge, skills, or scrappiness to take their challenge on. But I took every opportunity to try to learn and understand them. I’ve definitely come out more knowledgeable about many things not related to engineering, design, or technology. But I wouldn’t have gotten here without facing areas where my knowledge was a bit lacking.”
The more you stretch yourself, the more you’ll learn about the professional world and how you show up in it. No matter where you end up, the experience will serve to broaden your understanding and opportunities. As James puts it, you’ll learn a lot about your strengths and weaknesses, and you’ll have great memories to look back on regardless.