How an Internship Changed My Career Path

Just last year, I was headed on a path towards a career in criminology. As a sophomore at Lynchburg College, I was taking all the right classes for a criminology major and was convinced a real life CSI-style career was what I wanted to do.

Near the end of my sophomore year, that plan took a major turn in the road. One day while checking messages on SKOUT, a social media app I use to meet new people, I saw the company was looking for a summer marketing intern in a role they called "Global Friendship Ambassador." This was an opportunity that had nothing to do with criminology, but I was intrigued. The position was described as an opportunity to work in a fast-moving startup environment on projects ranging from engaging with Skout's users in the app to video production and social media campaigns. I felt I would really enjoy the role, so I decided to apply and landed the internship! A few short months later I was on a plane to San Francisco and reporting for work in the heart of the city.

Following my gut feeling turned out to be a great decision. After a summer working at SKOUT, I returned to college and realized my passion for marketing was stronger than my interest in criminology. I changed my major to marketing and haven't looked back since.

As my peers are exploring internship opportunities, there are four pieces of advice I have based on my own experience:

1. Don't be afraid to look for an internship outside of your major. I am proof that students can be too focused. College is a time to explore what you want to do with the rest of your life.

2. Look for a position that allows you to play a meaningful role -- individually and on a team. I learned a lot about myself and marketing because I was given the opportunity to take on visible projects and pull my own weight. Every step of the way, a larger marketing team was there to provide mentorship and support.

3. Consider an internship with a smaller company. Although I interned with a marketing team, I was given assignments that had me working with people in all departments. An open floor plan and the fact that the company has fewer than 200 employees meant I regularly chatted with designers, engineers, the customer service team and even Skout's CEO -- whose desk is right in the mix with everyone else.

4. Be open-minded and have a positive attitude. From the interview to your first day, last day and every day in between - being open to learning and being someone others enjoy being around will open doors for you.

Someone else will have the honor of adding Global Friendship Ambassador to their resume this summer (if you're interested to apply, SKOUT is accepting applications through April 11, 2016).

Deciding what you want to do with your life too early on in your college experience, and closing your eyes and mind to other opportunities? Now, that is the real crime.