Student Post: Success Through Persistence

Updated: September 2, 2020

By Reese M.
University of Wisconsin – Stout, Class of 2021

As an education major, I was ecstatic to find out I had been selected to intern at a well-regarded high school only an hour and a half away from my campus. For those that may not know, internships in the education field are very hard to come by. The vast majority of hopeful teachers must student-teach to meet their field experience requirements. Student-teaching is unpaid and full time for an entire semester. 

As an intern, however, I would have my own classroom, receive pay, and have an overall better experience compared to that of my peers. My fall semester of 2020 was shaping up to be a great one that I would never forget, filled with wonderful experiences and opportunities to grow as a young professional in the education field.

My internship was called off on March 28, 2020. 

At first, I was shocked; I had not expected the COVID-19 pandemic to have such a far-reaching effect on my life, almost half a year in advance. But once the initial shock of losing such a great opportunity had worn off, I went to work. 

The mentor who had notified me about my internship cancellation was my greatest help in all of this. I asked her for references, websites, and other tools I could use in hopes of landing another internship as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for me, most, if not all, education internships were already filled or called off like mine since it was so late in the season. Those that were still looking for applicants were being flooded with resumes, emails, and calls from my peers in the education field. I personally felt that I had little to no chance of realizing my internship dream. 

Besides my mentor, my program director was my saving grace. After voicing my concerns and hinting towards giving up and waiting until next semester to search for another internship, she reminded me that consistency and persistence can go a very long way in the field of education.  Using my mentor’s references and my program director’s advice, I started to make calls and send emails. I researched school after school, making direct calls to inquire about the existence of internship programs within their district, since not all schools offer these types of programs. For every five schools I called, one had an internship program, and I was lucky if they were still looking for applicants. 

The calls and emails to every school within a two-hour radius of my house continued for almost three days. I sent my resume and references with every email, and promoted myself as a highly motivated student who was well suited for an internship in a solo classroom.

Towards the end of the third day, I will admit I was on the verge of quitting. I had to have been on my 50th call at that point, and I was sick and tired of sending emails that would most likely never get a response. As the working day drew to an end, I made my last call and begrudgingly typed out a few more emails. Then, I tried to forget about it for the rest of the day.  

I woke up the next day to an email in my inbox, not from a school, but from a company. It was called Cooulee Connections, and it was an alternative school that specialized in aiding at-risk youth by transitioning them back into the general school system. At first, I was surprised; I had sent this email on my first day of searching for a new internship and had been told that they were not looking for any more applicants due to COVID-19. This email held a different message: the opportunity to talk over the phone for a quick interview for the role of classroom aid. It seemed my hard work had paid off after all. I finally had a shot at another great opportunity. 

After researching the company some more, finetuning my resume, and practicing my interview responses with some friends, I was ready. The interview itself only lasted for 10 minutes, but it went smoothly. My interviewer made it clear that there would be some time before I heard back on their decision, and if I am being honest, the waiting was by far the worst part of this entire ordeal. I continued to send out emails and make calls during that time period, making sure I was productive and had a fallback plan in case I did not get the job.

In mid-April, almost three weeks after I had lost my dream internship and almost two weeks after my phone interview, I received the call that I had been accepted for the job. I would be interning again in the fall of 2020. I could almost feel a weight being lifted off my shoulders when the human resources representative welcomed me to their team. After thanking her more times than I’d like to admit, I contacted everyone who had helped me along the way and thanked them for helping me salvage my dream.

By the far the most valuable lesson I learned in all of this is the importance of staying on top of things. As much as I disliked writing those emails over and over, or making the same phone call 10+ times a day, it all paid off in the end. Many people fall short of reaching their goals or getting that dream job because they put in a certain amount of time or work and call it quits, when the real secret is to simply stick it out and embrace the grind.