Taking an unexpected internship landed me my first job

I surprised myself by choosing to do an internship at an unexpected place, and I learned a lot

I didn’t expect to agree to be an editorial intern for New Hampshire Business Review when I showed up at 150 Dow St. in Manchester. I actually had a final interview with a financial firm down the street, scheduled for after my interview with Jeff Feingold, the editor of NHBR. But halfway through the meeting at NHBR, I said I would work there for the summer, and I meant it.

Three months earlier, when I started my internship search, I was pretty sure I wanted to work in finance or marketing. So much so that I didn’t even look for any publication internships. The NHBR position became an option because it appeared in a business search.

I looked at it, put it on the back burner and kept pursuing the financial internships. And by pursuing, I mean I struggled through writing a bunch of different cover letters, even though I’m an English major, which only furthered my desire not to have to write for an entire summer. Cover letter composition really was the most frustrating aspect of the internship search.

To my surprise I got calls from some of my top choices. Unfortunately my first in person interview for the position I had pegged as my best option didn’t go well. I froze up while talking to the vice president of the company and never really recovered. Looking back, the interview was unbelievably formal and serious for an assistant researcher position.

Freezing up in front of the vice president taught me one thing: you’ll do your best where you are comfortable, and I wasn’t comfortable at that firm. The firm had an absurd amount of security and protocol, to the point where you would have thought these people were controlling nuclear codes, instead of mutual funds.

NHBR was the complete opposite. Jeff met me at the door with his dog following behind him. Our “interview” evolved into Jeff, his dog, a staff writer, the other intern and I talking about pop culture. I liked these people. And I figured I could endure the $0 a week pay to be around people who enjoyed what they did.

I started the internship a week and a half after I got out of school. The first day I established a philosophy that served me well throughout my tenure at the bi-weekly newspaper: Always say you can. And I said “I can” to a handful of things I wasn’t actually sure I could do.

For example, the senior writer, Bob, an old school investigative reporter, wanted me to compile a spreadsheet with the salaries of all the executives of New Hampshire public companies. It was a huge task and I didn’t know how to do it.

I asked questions until I figured it out, which complemented my yeah-I-can-do-it philosophy well. Bob probably came over to my cubicle 100 times while I was working on the project. But by the time I was finished, I could do just about anything in Excel and I had given him all the data he needed for his story.

They also asked me if I wanted to keep up with New Hampshire form Ds, which have to be filed when a company is raising money through investors. The task wasn’t exactly sexy. It entailed going through scores of public documents trying to find out if anything in them was of interest.

In my first few weeks I did get through them all and pulled out two really cool companies. The first company was run by this Dartmouth graduate, who had played against Michael Jordan in college and invented the famous Bendos figurines. He was one of the most interesting people I’ve met.

Hearing about out how he meets with other inventors to collaboratively solve every day problems was one of the highlights of my summer. He explained how having an open mind and taking a flexible approach to problems was the best way to get results. After speaking with him, I became keen on picking up my co-workers approach to their jobs.

Bob was the perfect example of this. He would try to track down every possible angle or lead on a story, only to cut out about 90 percent of the research he did. It might seem crazy. But, Bob’s meticulous methodology worked. And it made me want to work harder for him.

And I did work hard all summer. I would never have thought I would get a non-journalism job from taking the internship. But I was offered a marketing position in the second cool company I pulled from those form Ds. So, I ended up doing marketing, after all. Funny how things work out.

Matthew Guruge is a senior English major at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass. He will be pursuing a career in marketing upon graduation. Matthew grew up in New Ipswich where he spent a great deal of his youth playing sports. He played lacrosse for Wheaton for three years, but is now concentrating on his studies and career development.

Categories: Advice