George Scaravelli received a daunting task during his recent internship at Tribune Interactive, one of the largest multimedia corporations in Chicago.
In between assisting his boss and restocking the vending machines, Scaravelli, 22, was at the helm of a national contest called "New Year, New You." Applicants had to tell in 150 words or less why they should win $10,000 in 2010 in order to better their lives. Along with three other interns, Scaravelli read through a third of the nearly 40,000 applications.
And in the end, one of his top finalists made it to the final selection process to win the prize. The winning submission came from Christine Barron, an infertile woman from Frieden, Pa. She began the process to adopt one child, but discovered the child had three siblings who also did not have stable homes. Therefore, Barron and her husband decided to adopt all of the siblings, allowing them to have the large family they always wanted.
Scaravelli, openly gay and a recent college grad, says the experience of changing someone's life was "extremely rewarding." Even more so was the knowledge he obtained while working at Tribune Interactive: valuable, specific skills essential to a future career in communications.
Like most graduates, Scaravelli is anxious and nervous to enter the working world. However, being out in the workplace is an added challenge all LGBT students still face. Considering many LGBT professionals still report discrimination in the workplace, whether or not to disclose sexual orientation at the start of a young person's career is an important decision.
Scaravelli reports of an accepting and diverse work environment at his internship. "I never felt like anyone really cared about my sexuality there, other than the friends I made," Scaravelli told Money College. "I felt completely safe and accepted."
In fact, Scaravelli thinks his sexual identity will be a benefit in the workplace, especially with an increased need for social media savvy and SEO smarts.
"These days, being gay is sort of a perk when entering the professional world," said Scaravelli. "Especially in the social media realm. Look at Perez Hilton; people enjoy the gay-oriented sense of humor. It's bold, honest and witty."
Jennifer Halperin, Money College's Internship Insider and the journalism internship coordinator at Columbia College in Chicago, echoes Scaravelli's thoughts on how sexual orientation can create opportunity for students.
"I haven't seen a situation where a student's sexual preference contributed to a successful or unsuccessful internship experience, but what I have seen are opportunities that have come about [with] newspapers that were focused on gay issues and culture," said Halperin. "Those create additional internship possibilities for students, and I'd say that the same would be true for gay-rights or other organizations with a gay-oriented mission."
As minorities, LGBT students have the advantage of job banks and internship directories specifically created to land them dream positions in their fields. Organizations such as the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association (NGLJ) and LGBT Career Link make it their priority to advocate on behalf of LGBT professionals and create strong support networks for students and graduates.
As many of us college graduates put down our backpacks and pick up a briefcase, we hope that school equipped us with the necessary tools to be big girls and boys in the big world. Considering a majority of college students have been in school since the age of 3, adjusting to life outside of an 18 credit-hour week will take some time. Hopefully, internships provided students a peek into their future profession.With 50% of college students holding internships during school, the field experience a student receives could determine a hiring decision in his or her favor.
Graduating is intimidating and life-altering. It's easy to be overwhelmed over beginning the next big chapter of your life. However, after the dismal employment rates for students in 2008-2009, the outlook is much better for 2009-2010 grads.
So fine-tune that resume, straighten your blazer, and dazzle your employers with the smarts and wit that helped you survive four years of all-nighters and bad romances. You owe it to yourself.
Jake Giles writes HomoSensible, a column dedicated to gay collegiate lifestyle on a budget. It appears on Money College every other Tuesday. Send tips to MoneyCollege@walletpop.com.
Gay grads ready themselves for the working world