My Summer Interning at American Red Cross
My Summer Interning at American Red Cross
Guest Blog Contributor: Jessica Velasco, Class of 2014 at Iona College
Deciding what to do over the Summer
During my college career, I’ve kept myself busy every summer; whether it was taking a few classes, volunteering or working for an organization. Going into my senior year, it was imperative to find a valuable internship, because it’s one of the first steps into the professional world. I wasn’t only considering internship at non-profit organization and kept my options open; however, I knew I wanted to work for an organization that makes a difference in the lives of others. As a Student Campus Minister at Iona, we work with many non-profits to promote volunteerism throughout the campus and the community.
The recruitment process
I was offered an opportunity with my previous summer job at an international English school, but I knew I wanted to do something different. I literally searched “summer internships” and one of the first links that came up was the American Red Cross Summer internship. As I was reading the web page, I saw the many opportunities the program had to offer across the county and at National Headquarters. I would check the web site every day to see when the application was available. Once it came out, I wasted no time to create my profile and apply to the positions I was interested in.
Human Resources contacted the candidates to confirm whether their interest in the program. Then they would inform the students via email whether we made the first few rounds of the process. Once I was selected to schedule a phone interview for the final round, I was ecstatic! My interview was the day before my birthday and I was a nervous wreck. Prior to the interview, I made an appointment at the Gerri Ripp Career Development Center to review my resume and conduct a mock interview. They prepared me with potential questions and how to answer them. I was able to conduct my interview in the office that way there would be no distractions. Two days after my interview, I received the email of an offer for the Youth and Young Adult Intern. It was one of the best birthday gifts I’ve ever received. There was never a time I felt intimidated to ask questions because the recruitment team was so willing to help.
Going to the orientation felt as if I was going to my first day of school, this time as a professional adult. My fellow interns and I were all nervous, but once we started conversing, we all felt comfortable with each other. The first item on the orientation schedule was taking our picture and receiving our personal badge in order to have building access. Afterwards we headed to the National Historic Landmark Building where the orientation was being held. The Talent Acquisition team welcomed us with open arms! They made it clear that we would make a difference in the departments that we were working for and that this internship would be an unforgettable experience. After a few important presentations, we were able to have lunch with our supervisors. It was a great experience meeting her and to know that we were not alone during this process. Once lunch was over, we took a tour of the historic landmarks throughout the buildings. Afterwards we were broken into teams to partake in a scavenger hunt! Not only did we go around the Red Cross premises, but we went across the road to the White House! The orientation set a great precedent of how the summer experience was going to be.
Congressman Danny Davis, representing the 7th district of Illinois, once said, “An internship is an education of something you DO, not what you know.” Though I did apply some classroom skills into the internship, I knew that the skills I was going to learn would be applicable in my professional career. One of the projects that I was fortunate to work on was the Youth and Young Adult Orientation that is utilized by the chapters nation-wide. It was such a humbling experience doing research about the history that dates back 130 years and learning about the many opportunities available for volunteers. Prior to submitting my project, I conducted a mock orientation to receive feedback and other critiques.
There were many opportunities networking with executives and other professionals throughout internship. I was even fortunate enough to meet the CEO, Gail McGovern! Every Wednesday, senior executives were highlighted at the Lunch and Leads. It was a great learning opportunity, because it provided stories, insights and advice to the audience of interns by the different executives we were able to meet.
I had two mentors during my internship. My direct supervisor, Portia, is the Associate of Youth and Young Adults. We conducted weekly meetings discussing project assignments and the progression of each project. Other than work related items, we discussed career goals and how to utilize the opportunities of an internship, as well as advice about the professional setting. Portia also challenged me by setting goals upon completion of each project. Her mentorship helped me because I knew that I wasn’t alone and that I could always ask a question for help. I’ve heard many horror stories about how supervisors weren’t supportive of their interns and I am very thankful Portia was not that supervisor. Another mentor of mine is Adrienne Alberts. Adrienne is the Program Manager of College and Workforce Inclusion Programs and was the head of the internship program that year. Adrienne and her colleagues led the orientation, informative presentations and the closing luncheon. The informative presentations varied from how to work with colleagues, how to present oneself in the professional force, how to network and more. With these presentations, Adrienne put them to the test by creating events where the skills we learned were put to the test. Adrienne and her team went above and beyond to make sure our time during the program would be an educational and phenomenal experience. I’m glad to say that I still keep in touch with these strong role models. It’s been a privilege to have Portia and Adrienne by my side and I am very fortunate to know them.
I would tell students looking for an internship with a non-profit and/or Red Cross make sure to do your research and learn more about the organization’s mission. Unfortunately there are many frauds out there so before you even apply do your research. Also ask around your social network to see if they know someone who has worked for that specific organization you’re interested in. It doesn’t hurt to connect with that person and ask questions. You never know what insights they may have to offer. Also, keep an open mind and open heart. You never know what position you may end up with as well as the difference you will make for that organization.
The advice I would give to Career Centers on how help student interested in opportunities with the Red Cross is connect students with those who have had experience interning or working with the Red Cross. Let them know that they’re not alone during this process and that we’re willing to help!
This internship definitely influenced my career plans. Working for the American Red Cross has been such a wonderful experience that I look forward searching for positions and other opportunities they have to offer.