Gustie Summer Employment Secrets: Stay FlexibleElliot Steeves '24 on the lessons he learned while trying to gain valuable experience in the professional writing world.
Posted on September 12th, 2023 by

Elliot Steeves '24 ended up learning a whole lot about a whole new area.

Summer is often an occasion for college students to try and nudge their way into a career path. Biology students conduct on-campus research, while music students begin to work on teaching projects. And because of this time, and what it means for us, we all seek one key resume landing: Internships.

My career interest has always been in writing. I am passionate about using words to accomplish things, be it a student paper, helping others with their writing projects, or just for fun. So, when thinking about a first step into the work world (outside of my local grocery store back home), ideas such as blogging, journalism, and copywriting naturally came to mind.

During the 2022-23 school year, after attending an appointment at the Career Center, my first step became clear. I received a recommendation to apply for a nonprofit that combats global poverty* to work on an unpaid writing internship, and I had also gotten a bit of work from City Of Lakes Waldorf School to assist with their public blog—I graduated from there in 2016 and have retained a good relationship with the school. While my work with CLWS was a success, the nonprofit was a different story.

(*Which brings us to my first lesson learned: I have chosen not to identify which nonprofit this was—don’t burn bridges if you’re in the work world, friends.)

I quickly discovered that the nonprofit had a few oddities up their sleeve. Rather than writing, most of my time was going to be spent reading and watching material to learn about what the group did. Fair enough, but while they advocated for a wonderful cause, it was through lobbying for legislation and not necessarily via direct on-the-ground advocacy. 

The big red flag, however, was the fundraising requirement. By the end of the three-month internship, I was to raise $500 through a personal fundraising campaign on the internet. I was also expected to raise money by badgering my friends and family to contribute. Not only that, the money would not go toward the cause but instead would fund organizational functions.

After seeking advice from my parents, as well as several of their friends, I decided that this was not the best option for my more writing-focused goals, and I declined to take the internship. But now, I was left with a tiny bit of work for CLWS, and my paid job at the grocery store. After just a day, however, an intriguing lifeline emerged.

My dad informed me that Kurt Gearheart, the CEO of the parent company for the life insurer Longevity Holdings, was desperately in need of marketing writing assistance. After pondering on it for around two nights—the insurance-writing content on my resume is thin, to say the least—I wrote to Kurt. 

Just eight hours later, he replied and redirected me to the director of marketing for his company, Kristen Hollander. She informed me that they had room for a 15-hour-per-week internship, where I’d be working on their blog. Within five days, they’d set me up.

During the internship, I not only gained the blogging experience that I was looking for, but I also learned far more information than I thought I would ever know about the life insurance industry. I could not have told you what a TOLI trustee was weeks prior, much less a flexible premium or policy lapse. It was an entirely new world that I had thrust myself into.

Here is the lesson for college students reading this: The professional world, and perhaps especially writing fields, require one to be on their toes, and to constantly look out for any opportunity. There isn’t a set path toward picking one topic that you love and getting a job writing about it for the rest of your life. If that were true, I would always be writing about how awesome it is to watch football or the strange life of Captain BeefHeart.

So if there is anything that I would advise you about jobs, it is simply this: always stay flexible. If one door shuts, another one may very suddenly open. You also might learn more about life insurance, or another similar field, than you previously thought you would, while doing the very tasks you know you already enjoy.

 

 

 



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Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad
luch@gustavus.edu
507-933-7510

 

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