How Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone Benefitted Me

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Many professors will tell us as students that the most important thing to experience during college is an internship. Without internships, we would be missing out on many real-life professional opportunities. And let’s face it, when graduation is close, we’ll be glad we gained experience through our internships.

Early on I decided I wanted to work in communications and immediately started planning. My freshman year planner was meticulously filled with goals and classes I needed to complete my degree. Like me, many students have a plan, or at least an idea of one. However, those plans don’t always work out.         

As a broadcasting major, all of my professors recommended applying to local TV and radio stations, but I wanted to try something different. So, I started looking for a different type of experience, and I’m glad that I did.

The Internship

Last fall, I volunteered with Nebraska Appleseed, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing justice and educating our community about civic health and engagement. In the spring, I began working as an intern.

Appleseed is dedicated to four main programs: child welfare, economic justice, health care and immigration and communities. Each program is responsible for educating the community about their right to health care, programs that would benefit their financial situations and how to transition into the community as a new citizen.

My experience has mostly been a part of the economic justice and health care program. This work has included witnessing legislative debates, joining phone banks and attending local events.

I also worked as a caller on the intake line, which is Appleseed’s call center that transfers callers to different local organizations that can help them with financial and domestic problems they may be facing. Many people call for legal assistance or are seeking ways to volunteer. None of the work I did in the spring or fall involved video or media communications. That will change this summer.

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Starting in June I will be creating video blogs for Appleseed’s Insure the Good Life Campaign that tell the stories of working families who are struggling to balance their budget and afford health care. This campaign asks leaders to expand Medicaid funding to give more Nebraskans access to health care. The videos will be posted to the campaign blog, channeled through social media and presented during community outreach events. Each video will profile individuals who are affected by this issue.

My job is to create and distribute an intriguing storyline about the people who are struggling with medical costs. So far, I have interviewed several people who have shared many inspiring stories, which has been great practice for outreach skills. This project has been a wonderful opportunity to practice my video production and post-editing skills, but it also has given me a better perspective of the people who we are helping.   

What I Learned

Working for a nonprofit has inspired me to work for my community, and I am happy that I didn’t apply for a local TV station. This experience has inspired me to volunteer and be a bigger part of my community, something that wouldn’t have happened at another broadcasting internship. I have become a better communicator and more venturous in my communications career.

My mentor encourages me to keep applying to nonprofit opportunities. I look up to her and I am so grateful that she has pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone. I continue to work with nonprofits because they all have a service or a mission they provide to my community. I am overcome with pride when I see the difference I can make while working at Appleseed. That feeling is pretty great, and I will continue looking for jobs that give me the same feeling.      

Even though I was not officially a brand manager or an advertising consultant, it has grown into a diversifying experience. I have been able to apply the skills I learned in school and strengthened my resume through this internship. I also networked with many public relations and advertising executives through our community events.

In summary, I hope everyone could learn that it is OK to stray away from the plan book. Stepping outside your comfort zones will help you learn more about yourself and teach you skills that you can use in your future careers. So young students, remember this story and take a chance.

Madison Weinberger is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She currently holds a treasurer position in the UNL PRSSA chapter. Connect with her on LinkedIn and view her latest work on her website.

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