We always love hearing from our Colgate alumnae. Whether it’s catching up at a networking reception or posting on the blog, all of us back at Colgate want to know what our alums are doing! This alumna spotlight features Ms. Sam Williams. As a successful professional woman out in the PR industry, she has come back to CWiB with her words of wisdom (which make me smile)!
As my wise friend Lisa Lee ’12 once said (and wrote in a discussion on Colgate’s LinkedIn group), “Internships are the new entry-level for those in the class of 2014- seize rather than scoff, and you will see how far these opportunities/relationships will take you.”
Throughout my glorious years at Colgate, I didn’t actually put much thought into my life after college. I just kind of assumed that things would fall into place and I’d end up doing something fun and glamorous with my life. My c’est la vie attitude wasn’t really in line with the way my peers were approaching graduation, but it wasn’t like I didn’t have dreams, I just didn’t know what those dreams were, and I certainly didn’t know how to start to achieve them. This isn’t a story of a slacker getting her big break by a stroke of luck, it’s more like the story of a clueless girl slowly putting the pieces together to finally have a bigger-picture view on where she was headed in life.
To say that an internship was my major post-grad saving grace would be an understatement. I crashed into the “real world” with no plans and no plans to make a plan. When I returned to my native land, the San Francisco Bay Area, a Colgate alum (who is a friend, sorority sister, former teammate, etc.) contacted me out of the blue, mentioning that her company was looking for an intern. Having absolutely no experience in Public Relations, the idea of applying for an internship at a PR agency was intimidating to say the least. I politely said “no thanks” and continued working at the job I found at the beginning of summer, thinking that I would somehow manage to land the job of my dreams. By August, my first post-grad summer was drawing to a close but I wasn’t actually any closer to figuring out anything that had to do with my future. The panic was setting in and the light at the end of the tunnel was starting to dim.
Months after my friend reached out to me with an internship prospect, I realized that should have remembered the old adage about not knowing until you try. I contacted her and by the following morning, my resume had been submitted and I had an interview scheduled. I got the internship and worked really hard to learn everything I could about the industry, my role, and the work that I was doing.
Six months later, I’ve completed the internship and have accepted a full-time position at the company where I was interning, Current Lifestyle Marketing. This path is one that I had never imagined for myself—public relations in San Francisco??—but I’m thrilled to be at this exciting point in my life, starting a career in an industry that I (have grown to) love! Getting here wasn’t easy by any means, but it definitely could have been a lot more difficult, given the (f)unemployed place I was in at graduation.
To go back to the idea of post-graduate internships, relationships, and their value, I definitely wouldn’t have landed where I did (aka gainfully employed) without my internship. What was the catalyst in getting that internship, you might ask? Some genuine relationships! I never set out on a networking mission, but I did have a friend who was willing to extend herself to help me get my foot in the door. Sometimes it isn’t all about networking events and exchanging business cards (though that all has value too!); realize that your friends can be amazing professional contacts, too.
In my world, the turning point came when I acknowledged that the times are changing and internships are another layer to the post-graduate “norm” now. It’s easy to be discouraged when you’re hustlin’ in the job market as it is—the “entry level” jobs want you to have 1-2 years of experience, but you can’t get experience without landing the job, but you won’t land the job without experience—see how that works? The life of an intern is (sometimes/often/usually) far from glamorous, but just as your education is one step toward the rest of your life, a truly meaningful internship can also be another building block in that life. There will never be a right or wrong path to take after graduation, but it’s good to be aware of all the options that are out there!
I still have a ton to learn about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness as they say, but so far, the life lessons that I have learned have served me well. At the (VERY HIGH) risk of sounding like an overly zen “everything happens for a reason” girl, my parting words are this: be good to the people around you and seriously consider any and all opportunities that come your way. If I hadn’t had my mini-epiphany and gone crawling back to my friend about the internship she had mentioned, I might still be sobbing (intentional hyperbole; I’m many things but I’m no cry baby) and jobless. Now go forth, and make those cool, fun, unpredictable lives happen!
–Sam Williams ‘13