Lena’s summer 2019 field notes

The type of work that I did at (company) included….

I worked at CAUSE over this summer, the Center for Asian Americans for Self Empowerment! It’s a nonprofit that focuses on uplifting the next generation of API leaders. One way they do this is by placing us in offices based on whether we’re mainly focused on the corporate, nonprofit or government sectors. I chose to explore the corporate sector, so I was placed at SoCalGas in their Community Relations team! My week would include workshops on Mondays, where I got to hangout with my CAUSE staff and cohort. We would have panels of leaders and speakers from government, media and entertainment, business and nonprofits come to discuss local issues. On Tuesdays-Thursdays, I worked in the downtown office of SoCalGas. Some of my tasks included meetings with nonprofits that we partner with, touring their offices and projects, creating programs that identified neighborhoods of LA we can better assist with low-income assistance programs, and helping score and keep track of nonprofits working towards the Environmental Champions grant of up to $25,000! I always got to be very hands on and manage my own projects, sit in on different meetings with various departments and learn about their roles, and visit parts of LA that I (even as a SoCal native) had never explored before! 

The most challenging thing was…

The commute. Living in Los Angeles definitely has its perks and is lucrative in job opportunities, but even the drive from Westwood to Downtown was a brutal 50 minute commute everyday. It definitely made me reconsider location as a huge factor for where I’d want to work after I graduate. Although I know commuting is an inevitable part of the workforce, that LA traffic was not for me.

My favorite part was…

I really loved how encouraging and welcoming my team was! I was so intimidated by the massive, corporate office in those sterile DTLA skyscrapers. But my team was incredibly uplifting and gave me so much responsibility to help the company, even as an intern. I got to do really meaningful work that I can be proud of, like helping with their Environmental Champions Grant Initiative where I helped select and research nonprofits on their goals and past results. The community relations team worked with local nonprofits on environmentalism, veterans issues, homelessness, and STEM education – it’s a company that is truly dedicated to the people. I got to visit many of these wonderful nonprofits and see the behind the scenes work that they do!

What I wish I knew….

I wish I knew how important networking is. Before this summer, I had hardly ever tried to nor wanted to. However, CAUSE required us to spend our Friday’s doing coffee chats with people we’ve met professionally. It really pushed me out of my comfort zone, but once I got adjusted, I realized how essential it was to build great connections. All the professionals I talked to said that they got to where they are today not by applying online or searching on LinkedIn, but by networking with their colleagues and peers. Tip: always ask them for three people they would recommend for you to talk to at the end. Always follow up to thank them for their time. It’s definitely scary to put yourself out their blindly at first, but I wish I knew how critical it was to navigate the job market so I could’ve started sooner!

Advice for future interns…

To try everything you can while you can! Never limit yourself to just one sector or field. I’ve jumped from government to media to a nonprofit turned corporate internship. It’s so important to experience the vastly different types of careers and opportunities out there. You might think you want one thing and end up hating it; or vice versa and end up loving an opportunity you’d never considered before. Ultimately, you don’t know until you try.

Biggest takeaways…

Is to be open to new challenges and opportunities! Admittedly, when I placed corporate offices as my first choice, I was hoping to work in something like a PR firm. Honestly, getting placed at SoCalGas was the last thing I expected. I went into it having no idea what to expect and already believing that it wouldn’t be for me – which was a total mistake! I ended up loving my summer internship there, the people, company culture and opportunities. Because of it, I’ve met so many mentors and gotten to network with professionals that I’d never have the chance to without the placement. My biggest takeaway was to go into everything with an open mind, because doing otherwise could ruin a potentially amazing opportunity. We can’t assume the experience before living it, so going into new settings with a great attitude will make a world of difference. Ultimately, I wouldn’t change anything about my internship placement and I wished I had been more open minded about the job earlier on.