By Abbie Volkmann, JJ’s List.com Social Media Assistant and Disability Awareness Player
From January to May of this year, I was the communications intern for Openlands, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that protects and preserves open spaces throughout the Chicago area, from as far north as the Illinois-Wisconsin border, to as far south as Joliet, and in the city of Chicago itself.
I found the posting for the internship on Instagram. I then emailed my future supervisor my cover letter and resume. A few days later, I got invited to interview with them, and then I got the position. I chose to be an intern at Openlands because I really like going out and exploring nature, and I believe in the importance of connecting people to the outdoors. In addition, I wanted to combine the skills I had previously learned with my passion.
My responsibilities included taking photos and videos of the various preserves, helping to manage the organization’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, creating press releases and blogs, and helping to manage the website. I also assisted with any and all other tasks that my supervisor needed help with, since there were only three of us who worked in the communications department.
My favorite task was creating a video about recruiting volunteers for one of the organization’s programs. My experience with video editing allowed me to be in charge of putting together previously shot footage from several clips. I edited the sound of the clips and added music and titles as well. The final result was a video that will later be published to Openlands’ website so prospective volunteers can see it.
The most memorable part of my internship was the connections I made. Everyone I worked with was very nice and friendly. I even made a friend through Openlands, who also happened to be the person that sat at the desk next to me. I really enjoyed talking with her during our lunch breaks about various topics, from questions I had about Openlands and what she did there, to personal interests such as movies and music. Through interacting with and getting to know my friend, I got the opportunity to build my social skills, as well as make a professional connection.
Through my experience at Openlands, I had the opportunity to apply skills that I learned as a social media assistant at JJs List.com and as a JJslist.com Disability Awareness Player. I was able to practice job-related skills, strengthen social skills, expand my personal and professional network, and add to my professional resume. I have grown, both personally and professionally.
This internship has taught me that it’s never too late to learn, and that making connections could lead to future opportunities. The experience also gave me more self-confidence. Although I felt a bit awkward, I got comfortable talking to my supervisor and coworkers over time. One day, my mentor told me that I was one of the most social interns they ever had, which I took as a compliment.
I appreciate having been given the chance to work as an intern at Openlands. It helped prepare me for employment.
As a person with a disability, I believe that having at least one internship in your career is important. Not only does it give you the opportunity to gain new skills and help build your resume, it also allows individuals to grow, both personally and professionally. My advice to others with disabilities who are looking for internships would be to find one that interests you the most, and focus on what skills you could bring to the organization or company.