My Unpaid Internship Was My Best Paying Job

I didn't come up with much, so I don't have a lot of resources. I knew internships were important to start in corporate America, so I made that a goal of mine. I didn't even know what I was doing at the time, but it ended up being one of the best thing I've done for my career. 

I was in college, moved off campus and had to start working so that I could save some money on student loans. I was failing in my accounting classes and knew I was going to be switching to another degree. As many other students, I didn't know what I wanted to do after graduation, but I knew it was going to be something in the business world. My older sister tried many times to show me the proper ways to navigate college and one of the only things that stuck, was the importance of internships. 

Looking back, I should have went to the career center or talked to my teachers about this. I felt like my teachers hated me (I was failing a lot of classes) and I was too shy to go to the career. I decided to just own it and went on the internet instead to look for jobs. I really needed to start generating money and also grow my career so I applied to as many positions that I was qualified for. After a few weeks of waiting, a health services provider reached out to me for an interview. This company offered housing and other services the homeless, as well as clients with intellectual and mental health disabilities. I learned that the position was an unpaid, indefinite internship. Here was a company that wanted to "hire" a failing student with no clear future. When they offered me the position, I was so grateful that I didn't hesitate telling them I'd be honored take it. Even though I needed to start making money, I blindly trusted that the upside from this unpaid internship would pay off tenfold.

I'm learning that many successful people have had to take on odd jobs before making it big. I wonder what their mindset was at the time. Did they make the sacrifices, knowing that it would pay off in the end? It takes a different kind of mindset to understand and accept that it's a great value to accept nothing, in order to gain everything.

During my internship, I was tasked with the onboarding process, which meant handling the paperwork and data entry of new employees in a database. The school semester was still going on, so I was taking the full time 15 credits, and going into the office around 20 to 30 hours a week. For many of the days, I was sleepy and tired walking in, but ever so hungry and pumped to be there, so I tried to just do a good job. This continued for 6 months before they invited me to officially come on as an actual paid employee. I ended up staying with the company for about 3 years before moving on, and I learned a lot. Not only was I able to understand what it means to give a company value by trading my time for experience, but I also learned how to interact with individuals with mental health and intellectual disabilities. I'd always been super uncomfortable around them, so I gained so much perspective by getting out of my comfort zone with the clients. These lessons shape my life now by my willing to take on extra projects at my current job with no extra pay, or deploying my EQ in order to empathize when others are having an off day. I was payed greater than money and I'll forever be gratefull because the upside has been so much more. I would much rather give the world a lot of value in any way I can, because I continue to blindly trust that life will work itself out. 

Are you willing to be nothing in order to become something? Let me know of a time when an experience took a different turn for the best, more than you expected.