It seems impossible that I am already halfway through my 8 weeks at AVODAH. In my time here so far, I have learned the importance of reflection. Both consciously and unconsciously, the organization constantly reflects upon current practices and programs to determine future direction. Reflecting back upon my goals for the summer, then, is rather fitting.
Before beginning my internship, I came up with a list of academic, professional and career goals, and I have definitely progressed on many of them. I learned one method of non-profit evaluation through observing the development of a detailed grant report on AVODAH’s Alumni Retreat. I have observed the challenges and advantages of integrating religious values into a non-profit’s mission through the development of this evaluation, as well as in the planning of upcoming events. I am learning firsthand about managing data as I am maintaining and creating new methods of data and resource organization. In thoughtful staff discussions about the current and future state of AVODAH, I have learned about the importance of adhering to and modifying goals and mission statements.
Reflecting upon the areas of my education that have been most useful thus far led me to some interesting conclusions. From the classroom, basic business knowledge has been helpful, and so has having a background in psychology. Writing skills have been extremely important too. The skills that have been most helpful to me so far–communication, observation, teamwork and motivation, to name a few–have come from what I consider a very prominent piece of my education: my extracurricular activities. For example, coordinating the Brandeis Big Siblings program and our program partnership with Jewish Big Brother Big Sister has taught me so much about professional communication, and I have used and improved upon that knowledge through my internship at AVODAH.
To continue, I am a big believer in passion and motivation–whatever you are doing, being passionate and motivated is key. The reality is, though, that everyone usually ends up filling roles that they are not totally motivated to fill. Sometimes, becoming passionate and motivated takes time and effort. As AVODAH is dedicated to strengthening the Jewish community’s fight against the causes and effects of poverty, my volunteer work in this field as well as my involvement in Jewish life on campus initially fueled my motivation in my position at AVODAH, although I quickly fell in love with the organization. Last week, my supervisor and I attended an intern and professional networking luncheon at the Bronfman Foundation, where we discussed what The Week determined to be the “4 Workplace Skills you Need Right Now”. One of those skills was empathy, “the ability to directly relate to others’ experiences”. Through working with my supervisor, I quickly came to understand why alumni and community engagement work at AVODAH was so important. AVODAH engages energized and intelligent young adults in a year of direct service fighting the causes and effects of poverty and activities that challenge them to become social justice leaders. To fulfill AVODAH’s mission, it is vital that after their year in service, corps members partake in the network of Jewish social justice leaders that they are now a part of. Actively drawing on the immense knowledge and experience of alumni and connecting them with like-minded individuals as well as opportunities to fight social injustices fulfills the Jewish practice of Tikkun Olam, Repairing the World, and the mission of AVODAH. My experiences with volunteer work, both domestic and international, have been most helpful in allowing me to practice empathy and directly relate to the goals of the Alumni network.
The skills I mentioned being helpful so far–communication, observation, teamwork and motivation–have additionally all been built upon as a result of my internship. I have had many valuable opportunities to observe AVODAH staff in action, both internally and in collaboration with other organizations. In observing staff members displaying the professional skills I am striving to achieve, I am then able to practice these skills through my independent internship responsibilities with new knowledge. The workplace is very much a classroom for an intern: while it may sound cliché, the quote “tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn” is a great way to describe why I have learned so much as intern thus far.
To expand on a connection I made earlier, the skills I am building through my internship will be transferable to nearly all other areas of life. I think it is almost impossible to categorize different skills by “classroom skills”, “career skills”, or “social skills”, etc. Independence, communication, motivation, organization and the many other skills I am learning here are virtually useful everywhere. Another skill from the article we discussed at our luncheon, one of the four current necessary skills for the workplace was being social media savvy. While this is a skill that might not originally have seemed to be professional, hence the word social, social media has already become a very educational and professional tool, and goes to show that skills can be useful in a multitude of fields.
Lastly, I am most proud of my new found love of networking. I like to think I have always been a people person and love learning about others’ career fields and passions, but through observing my supervisor and discussing the importance of networking at the Bronfman Intern luncheon, I have realized the importance of following through and following up with my connections. The importance of and power behind a network of educated and inspiring people has become even more evident as we work together to strengthen AVODAH’s Alumni Network.
– Sophie Brickman ’16