Hi everyone! Jasmine here. I’m so excited to return to Beyond the Elms this year. Living in a single has given me a lot of quiet time to reflect on my path at Scripps so far. I’ve had a pretty diverse set of experiences I’m looking forward to sharing through this blog, and I hope you’re looking forward to reading about them too. Since this is my first post, I thought I’d share what I’ve been up to since last fall, just to give you a sense of what my sophomore spring and summer were like. I’d also like to recommend a solid back-up option for finding summer employment!
Spring: Happy happy joy joy abroad!
I studied abroad in London last semester through Boston University’s London Internship Program. I went abroad early as a sophomore, was the first Scripps student to go abroad on this program, and both were reasons to petition the Academic Review Board. If you have any questions about this process, please comment below! I’d be happy to tell you about it. You can also read my previous Beyond the Elms blog posts or my travel diary here.
Return from London…and face plant.
While I was abroad, I made the mistake of forgetting all about planning for my return. I came home in mid-May with stuffed suitcases, an empty bank account, and no idea for what to do. All the application dates for my target internships had passed.
I pride myself on being the responsible sibling, the one my mother can always count on, so it was very uncharacteristic of me not to have a plan. It was the summer after my sophomore year, my last summer to experiment. By the following summer–my last summer as an undergraduate– the pressure of finding an internship in my intended field would set in. (At least, that was how I saw it–I don’t want to stress all of you out!) I was so desperate, I started looking at Craigslist and searching the classifieds in the newspaper. It was *so* last decade. Then my mother, in all her sensible glory, convinced me to reach out to a temp agency.
Temp Agency Proceedings
For those of you who have never worked with a temp agency, here’s how it worked: I called to set up an interview with the agency, where I gave them my resume and walked them through my skills and experience. I told them what kind of a placement I wanted and what I hoped to learn. They contacted me in a few days with an opportunity fitting my description. After I gave my approval, the agency set up an interview with the employer. Through the agency rep, the employer extended an offer, which I accepted, and I started work the next week. Most temp agencies have separate departments for those seeking short term and permanent or long term positions. Summer work is considered short term, while a recent grad would most likely be seeking a permanent placement. It’s important to know that arrangements can change, given both your and the employer’s approval. My position was originally meant to last two weeks, but my employers ended up keeping me for ten, meaning my work lasted the whole summer.
Salvation from Couch Potato-ness Pros and Cons
It was frustrating finding out that the agency charged my employer $18/hr and that I only received $12 of that. It wasn’t particularly glamorous, compared to the lectures and press views I attended in London. But my job at the San Francisco branch of a nationwide engineering firm gave me a solid glimpse of civil and structural engineering despite my having no experience in those fields. And being an office assistant meant I helped and met everyone–whether that was the Vice President who needed a presentation updated, a project manager with shelves to reorganize, or a visiting employee in search of a good place for a lunch meeting. I learned how to compare costs of renting per month and booking hotels per night (Excel spreadsheets with formulas), how to work a comb binding machine (YouTube), and how to handle an upset client (stay calm and use what we at CP&R affectionately call the friendly, “baby lamb” voice). I even met the president of the company! I also gained transferable, basic office accounting skills I could put on my resume.
Moral of the Story
If your summer plans fall through at the last second, a temp agency might be a good solution. I made excellent professional connections and developed skills relevant to my intended industry. I also gained light IT skills I didn’t realize would be so useful in an office. Experimenting with a surprise company in a surprise industry helped me practice adaptability and strengthen my observation skills. It also broadened my level of exposure to other sectors of the economy–insight that will set me apart from other applicants in future. On a final related note, here’s an article on why diversity of thought is important in the workplace.