This is a transcript of the podcast. Some changes may be made for grammatical errors or clarity.
Emily: Hi everyone, this is Emily, the host of A Sit Down with Scholars. This is a podcast where we hear straight from present or previous interns. These interns sit down with me to share with skills it takes to be an intern, and what benefits they gain from their internship experiences. This is the second episode for this episode, I spoke with Lena Daniels. As Lena will go over in this episode, she was a hospitality major, who now works in the influencer marketing industry. She speaks about the six internships she had in college, and what she’s doing now as a 2020 graduate.
Emily: Okay, so if you could just introduce yourself, your name, your age, hometown, University…
Lena: Yeah, so my name is Lena, I am 22. I graduated from the University of Central Florida, which is in Orlando, Florida, in May of 2020. So, right in the middle of COVID and I’m originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Emily: What was your major when you attended the University of Central Florida?
Lena: So, I was actually a hospitality major. I really wanted to work for Disney World and that’s why I went into that. I had a lodging track so I wanted to work in resorts and stuff like that. I did a few internships in that field and decided I want to do more of a marketing perspective. It was too late for me to change to PR or something. But all the clubs I did were kind of aligned with that. I did a lot of social media. Then, I was able to switch my track a little bit. Still, hospitality major but was like a marketing track and took all the electives that had to do with that. And I got a minor in mass communications.
Emily: That’s kind of what I have, I have a track in strategic communications. The same thing, different names. But hospitality things are so interesting, I did not realize that you can major in hospitality.
Lena: I know we’re known as a fun major is what I used to call it. Like I took a cruise ship class, and over spring break we went on a cruise, as part of the class. One of my classes was theme parks, and it was so funny because I’m dating an engineer. So he had to study for this physics exam and I had to study for my theme parks exam. Like the questions would be like, “who is the mascot of Disney World” like Mickey Mouse. It was like it’s so funny, it felt fake almost but it was a lot of fun.
Emily: Yeah. I feel like that’s such an industry that you don’t think about. It seems like it’s a fun industry but like, I’m sure it’s very competitive and, it seems like it’s probably all fun.
Lena: At UCF, there’s a separate campus just for the hospitality students it’s more like by Disney and Universal and stuff like that. So you’re like 15 minutes away and you go like on lots of field trips to like parks and hotels and stuff like that. And they also have an Event Management major which is a whole separate thing. I thought I would get to do more events with the hospitality track because of events. But, you actually have a whole other major on like weddings and banquets and stuff like that. And it’s just like crazy that they have all of these courses on these things that you wouldn’t think would be classes. Like there are classes that you can learn how to be like a sommelier and take the wine pairing classes. I wish I had more credits to take more electives and stuff like that because they were just so cool.
Emily: How did your major impact where you are today?
Lena: So, as I said I’m not actually working in hospitality, which is funny. But, I think it’s a really good degree to have because you learn a lot of people’s skills, obviously. A lot of the jobs you have in hospitality, are people-facing. If you’re like a Front Desk Agent you need to deal with upset people. So, it’s given me a lot of experience just like being able to communicate with my co-workers with any clients that I might have and to do so in like respectful and responsible manner. I think it’s just very universal I think everyone should have some sort of training in that. And like I mentioned I like doing events I think in marketing, you get a really unique perspective, where you can host these events if you’re doing a campaign with a brand that has an event portion of it. For example, when I was on HerCampus, we would have on-campus events and my experience in hospitality helped me plan those and do all the paperwork and fill it out, much easier than I would have if I didn’t have that experience.
Lena: So I think it was like a great major to have, but obviously graduating in the middle COVID events and the hospitality industry just like collapsed. So I’m very glad that I have the opportunities like different clubs and stuff and was able to get a job outside of that industry and that I kind of knew before graduating that that wasn’t necessarily where I wanted to end up after graduation anyway.
Emily: Yeah, I definitely feel like hospitality especially has so many different transferable skills that you realize because I mean you don’t ever get training on like dealing with upset customers in other industries but like most of them, you’re gonna have people like that. What organizations were you involved with in college?
Lena: Yeah, so my main organization HerCampus is an online publication, written by women for women. Our chapter was one of the lead chapters, we’re in the top 5%. So, in addition to just writing articles and stuff, we did lots of on-campus events. You see it’s like the biggest school in the country so they would always come to us and they had like on-campus events they wanted us to do. So we’ve done tours with Zenni Optical and we’re going to do Too Faced, which I’m was so excited about, and then COVID hit. So they did that after I graduated, which was really sad. But HerCampus was like my life. I was the president of that organization so I like gave it my all and it was all I thought about. But in addition to that, I was also a UCF social media ambassador so on like Instagram, and Tiktok and stuff like that. You record videos with us and you can be like the face of campus.
Lena: And then I was also involved with Campus Activities Board, which was like the club that would bring in all like the concerts and stuff like that to our campus. So like anytime we have like a concert or a comedy night or something like that. As the concert committee, we would work to bring in the talent and then the night of the event, like, make sure all the students got in properly, and then I had an opportunity to work in the green room with Jesse McCartney, which was the coolest experience ever. Like I got to hang out with him, seeing the party for like an hour. I also got to meet DNCE, when that was a thing. So Joe Jonas. No one else was as memorable but it was the coolest experience ever.
Emily: And what industry are you currently involved in?
Lena: So I am in the social media and influencer marketing industry my current job is as a social media manager. Then in my free time, I do a lot of influencer marketing with brands on their personal accounts. The company that I am Social Media Manager for is actually an influencer marketing company so my whole life revolves around that now.
Emily: And what was your first ever internship experience in college?
Lena: I think it was Disney. I did the Disney College Program my sophomore year of college. And so that was my first internship where you like live at the theme and work I worked in Magic Kingdom and merchandise is not all it cracked so to be is definitely not as magical as going to the parks as a guest. And it’s really cool it’s like a six-month program when we did it over Christmas and Halloween and Thanksgiving but and then as I work on the holidays which is not fun. I definitely cried on Christmas Eve, but aside from that, it was really cool like that that is like my first internship.
Emily: Oh yeah, definitely like first internships Disney, just so just like comes with the nature of it. I think that’s crazy because o the area I am in.
Lena: Yeah, it’s definitely like one of those things where if I tell people, like, like all work at Disney, they’re like, “Okay, so what?” But, if I go home and tell people that like in Pittsburgh. I worked at Disney that like, “what, oh my gosh, tell me everything that’s so cool.” Like, it does not matter on your resume here in Florida but anywhere else, it’s like, how did you get that first internship at Disney, like, that’s why I was I was the first one. Yeah, so does the college program pretty cutthroat but it is a productive program to get into so when I always knew I wanted to do it since high school like it was always my dream and I ended up applying this semester, earlier than I ever planned on doing it like on a whim like I saw the application dropped and I’m like, Well, let me just practice for next semester when I actually want to do it and know what questions they’re gonna ask me and all that stuff. So you did like an online interview and then after that, you did a web-based interview, and then after that, if you make it through those, you do a phone interview, and so it made us do a phone interview, and like most people don’t even make it to the phone interview, so I was like “oh crap, I need to take this seriously because this could be it.” But, I still didn’t know if I wanted to do it that semester because I didn’t really want to work over Christmas. I wanted to do it in the springtime, but I just wanted to do it. On the phone interview, I was honest and so I was like hey like I’ve always wanted to do during the spring, if like if I do to offer this position in the following do you have any advice like Would it hurt my chances it if I turned it down and we get to the spring. Basically, in my interview, I was like you don’t know when you’re going to get opportunities you have to say yes, especially when you’re young, because like when you’re 40 you’re not going to remember like, oh I did it spring 2017 versus fall 2016 or whatever. So she’s like if you get it, I recommend taking it like it was a really prestigious program like, there’s no guarantee you’re gonna get offered it again so I ended up getting it for merchandise which was not my top role either but again because I just didn’t know if I would get it again I said yes.
Emily: And what would you tell someone who’s looking for their first internship for advice?
Lena: I would say things like no such thing is hurting too young I think that advice that my interviewer told me about you never know when you’re going to get an opportunity if it falls into your hands to take it I think that’s like the best advice possible for college students. Fortunately, I was able to do I think six or seven internships during my whole time in college. That is a lot more than what people would have, but I gain so much more knowledge in those internships than I did in the classroom. Especially in hospitality like when you’re doing dealing with guests like hands-on experiences, how to be nice to a guest or how to solve a conflict or something like that, you just need to get in. And also if you have an internship that you don’t like, don’t sweat it. I discovered it at Disney that I hated it. I did not like working there, but I stuck it out to the end because that provided a really valuable learning experience that allowed me to really look at my career and pivot what direction I wanted to go down.
Lena: So early on, like that was my sophomore year of college, so be able to switch my track up a little bit and pick out electives that I knew would help me align better with my career goals, and each internship after that on social media, and I was doing social media for some brands that I didn’t like align with there was like a construction company and I was like, how am I supposed to make an Instagram post or something I’m not passionate about so that internship then taught me like, okay, you know you do like Instagram you do like doing social media however you want to make sure you’re finding a brand that like aligns with your values. So when I ultimately got my first job as a social media manager, I knew I wanted to work for a female-founded business, creating content aligned with what I do. I know how to make content around the influencer tips and tricks like that so the stuff I like I actually genuinely enjoy, and I just think you just don’t learn that until you have the experiences.
Emily: No, that’s a perfect response though, because I was also reflecting on that when I had recorded my first podcast and it was just like every single internship led me to where I am today. Even sometimes if you don’t like it while you’re doing it, you’ve learned that sooner than later. Like, I did a law firm internship because I want to be a lawyer, but now I do social media.
Lena: Right, totally different direction but if I wouldn’t have done last then you just don’t know. And, if you’re a planner like me it’s hard to like to pin it. The direction you think you’re gonna go in because you’re like “oh my gosh I had my whole life planned out as exactly what to do and all of a sudden it’s like falling apart because what I thought I wanted to do, isn’t what I want to do.” You get like this moment where you’re like, “crap like what have I been building up to this whole time if I actually don’t like it.” You can’t dwell on that feeling you have to just like, move forward with your new interest because like you change and you can’t be stuck doing something you don’t like just because three years ago you planned out your life. Be able to switch it up on yourself.
Emily: And that’s more fun sometimes! Switch it up a little bit. What do you say that you’re passionate about?
Lena: Social media is definitely my number one passion. It’s always been there for me. I’ve been obsessed with Instagram since my sophomore year in high school and most people just use it casually. I was already planning out my feed. Now it’s something everybody does, which is really cool to see it growing. But at the same time, I get jealous of the people who like just joined and grew so fast, like I’ve been trying for like seven or eight years now. That’s fine, that’s fine.
Lena: That and fashion. like fashions always been something I’ve been really. I’ve always been one of the girls who show up to high school wearing heels and a dress. People would be like, “girl it’s 7 am,” like worried, where’s your leggings, and where’s your sweatshirt. I always tried to put myself together. Then on my Instagram, I share fashion-related and share different tips and tricks on how I like to style things. So I use those, my main passions because they just come naturally to me.
Emily: How would others describe you?
Lena: Oh my gosh, I hope, bubbly. First I try to be really real on my social media. So like, I’m talking about issues I’m like the transparent about like brand deals or something. I include the actual number that I’m making, you know like as long as I’m legally allowed to. Because I’ve been in and out so media is something that not many people do and gives me a slight edge. There’s no reason to keep secrets, and I think it just helps the industry grow.
Emily: Okay, so what motivates you to go to work?
Lena: I love creating, it’s like something that I’ve always been passionate about and I’m fortunate that in my job right now I get to like as a photographer, graphic designer. I get to plan out the speed I get to interact with different people. I get to wear a lot of hats as a social media manager and I feel like a lot of people don’t realize that they’re like, “Oh, you’re just posting on Instagram,” but like there’s a lot that goes into it. So like that, I’m able to like switch it up and like yesterday, for example, I went to the office for the intern and we did photos all day and it was like something different than what I’m doing today where I’m like, actually designing graphics and stuff like that, where I’ll be like doing something different so it’s cool that I get to use as my creative skills in like so many different ways.
Emily: What do you love doing more than anything else? What’s your favorite task to do?
Lena: Hmm. That is a good question. I think right now in my current job I love when I get to do digital illustrations because I get to step away from my phone and my laptop and take my iPad out and just like drawing in just doing that I feel like is a lot less like stimulating the comments and like you have a lot of different trends and like hashtags and stuff like that I just get to like to sit there and like just draw, and like that’s really relaxing for me.
Emily: What skills and experiences do you rely on in your current position?
Lena: I think I’m in a unique space where I built our like department in the social media department from the ground up, so I had to like utilize like, in addition to just knowing how to analyze all those different social platforms and create content for it I have to like be very organized. Create content calendars, create monthly social media reports, and stuff like that. And because I have interns, but aside from that, I’m the only full kind of person who likes works on my team. I have to be very independent and know how to like, get my stuff done without having to rely on other people. And because I do have interns, I get to use my different skills, to just assign them to projects I’ve worked with them and it’s been really fun because I feel like I’m running like my own little business but just like the social media department. That’s why I love it.
Emily: And what interpersonal skills, personality traits, and characteristics are required for you to thrive at your job?
Lena: Well, we’re not a startup anymore, but we used to be a startup so startup culture is a lot different than if you’re working in a corporate office or something like that. So our team, fortunately, is all really like-minded people we’re all like females in our mid-20s We have some males on the team too but for the most part, we’re all kind of around the same age, and kind of at the same point in life. So just being able to like have fun and talk to them like the way you would talk to businesses like you would at like a corporate job or something like that. But, with us, we have our Slack channel and we have all these memes that we send. Now that we’re remote, it’s a little more difficult. Being remote, not getting to like, have that conversation face to face and just like have the small talk as you would with your co-workers, but aside from that, it’s been like a much more relaxed environment than I would have expected for my first job out of college.
Emily: What benefits and opportunities do you appreciate the most about your current job?
Lena: Right now because I’m about to start the social media, reverse, like accounts for our company. I had the opportunity to just kind of like, take my vision and run with it, which was really cool. As I said, I don’t really have anyone I need to go through I just am able to have that creative freedom on my own, which was really cool for me like desert counseling. I think if you’re like a college student and you’re looking for that first job out of college. Now everyone’s like, don’t be picky but you can be picky. I think we have an opportunity now especially with a lot more companies becoming remote you can look at places and cities that you might not have ever thought about, which is really cool you might not have been able to actually get up and move there, but now you might be able to work for them remotely. So just remember like when you’re interviewing for a job like obviously, you want to impress them. But, at the same time, they’re trying to fill a role and you might be interviewing for like 10 other positions, and they might want you so it’s a two-sided thing. That’s something I never really thought about when to interview for my internships, but you want them just as much as they want you so like, you’re allowed to ask more questions during your interview than like if they say you have questions at the end. Be sure to ask them questions and make sure that you’re picking the right fit for you because you only have eight semesters in college if you’re doing like the typical experience you want to make sure that every internship is one that pushes you in the direction that is going to help your career in the future so just be analytical be critical and make sure you’re doing what’s best for you.
Emily: That’s really good advice. I love it.
I was very happy that I got to speak with Lena, with her many different internships, She’s a really unique perspective, and can attest to the fact that your major does not have to be the industry that you work in.
If you have previous internship experience and want to be a guest on this podcast, email me at Emily at [email protected].