Micro-Intern Success: Changing the World, One Project at a Time

College students approach their education with a variety of goals. For example, improved career prospects and higher earnings potential are frequently top of mind. For Mishwa Bhavsar, a Computer Science major at Illinois Wesleyan University, education is a stepping stone to changing the world for the better. Micro-Internships, including the four she’s already completed, are helping her determine how she can best do that.

Setting the Stage for Impact

Mishwa started her post-secondary education at University of Montana’s Helena College, where she earned her Associate’s Degree. She enjoyed being able to make a big difference at a small school, and knew she’d found where she wanted to earn her Bachelor’s degree when she learned about Illinois Wesleyan University, a small liberal arts institution in Illinois. There, during a one-on-one appointment at the Career Center, Mishwa shared that she was looking for a way to make a difference and give back to communities while simultaneously working on her technical, teamwork, and communication skills. That’s when the Career Advisor suggested Micro-Internships.


Why Micro-Internships

When asked what intrigued Mishwa about the Micro-Internship model, she was excited both by the flexibility and the potential impact of the projects. In Mishwa’s words,

“It’s a real-life application without a long-term commitment. I can actually give back and my work will be used.”

Mishwa expanded on how the remote and deadline-driven nature of Micro-Internships made them more accessible to her, a student with a busy schedule. She shared, “I have leadership positions on campus and 300-level classes. In-person internships can be really difficult to manage between classes, attending professors’ office hours, and my other responsibilities. With Micro-Internships, I can work on it during the weekend or any other time of the day. It fits into my schedule, even when I’m busy.”

When Mishwa says she’s busy, that may be a bit of an understatement. In addition to her leadership responsibilities, she also completed two traditional internships last spring and is currently in the midst of an on-campus fellowship and internship. While her spring internships were great experiences, Mishwa shared that neither were paid, and reflected on the ways that the paid nature of Micro-Internships allowed her to engage in them.

“Since I was getting paid for my Micro-Internships, I was able to take on the non-profit unpaid internships. I’m a college student. I need money. I was able to get experience from both avenues, a traditional internship and a Micro-Internship, and the pay from the Micro-Internship made it so I didn’t have to worry as much about how I was going to be able to pay for some of my expenses.”


Making a Difference

Mishwa’s Micro-Internships have already given her meaningful experiences, ranging from building a resource for an institute committed to equal opportunities for people with disabilities, to developing a better understanding of AI technology that can make life easier for humankind. Meaningful goals are something Mishwa intentionally seeks out when considering projects, sharing, “I look for opportunities that have interesting missions, and if I’m selected, I get genuinely excited to give my best to that opportunity.”

Despite each project she’s worked on having a unique focus, something they all had in common was the opportunity for Mishwa to further develop skills, become aware of new industries, and bolster her confidence. 

When reflecting on her first project, Mishwa shared, “I also got background on what the company was doing and I got to learn about how this product was coming to the market.” For another project, Mishwa admitted that she didn’t have a lot of background before she got started. She recalled,

“I had an idea, but I had never done anything like that by myself. When it ended, I was confident that I could develop a website by myself, and that feeling was amazing.”

Mishwa even saw the skills she was building provide her with a leg up in the classroom. In regards to her data mining experience, she shared “I was doing the Micro-Internship at the same time I was learning about algorithms in class. I was getting the real-life experience AS I was learning it.  At some points in class I was thinking ‘I just learned this from my supervisor!’”


Building a Network of Peers and Professionals

Micro-Internships have also opened Mishwa’s eyes to the opportunity for genuine connection within a remote experience. She reflected on the relationships she built, saying, “I’m a person who likes to connect with people and learn from their experiences. Given the COVID situation I thought I would want to have in-person internships, but I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything with Micro-Internships.” In particular, Mishwa enjoyed that two of her four Micro-Internships that were done with Open Avenues Foundation allowed her to collaborate with a cohort of other Micro-Interns. She shared, “There was a real sense of connection that I didn’t necessarily expect from a virtual experience, even with all four of us Micro-Interns being in different timezones!”

Connections with peers, however, weren’t the only valuable relationships Mishwa built during her experiences.

“I really loved all 4 of my supervisors. They all were really flexible with the schedule and very helpful.”

In fact, Mishwa found the supervision provided for Micro-Internships to be an ideal balance of independence of support, sharing, “With all of them, I had freedom, but I also had a clear understanding of the end goals and knew my supervisors were always there to help me and answer questions. Through these projects, I built skills related to algorithms, 3D modeling, team-building, communication, and presentations.”

Not only did Mishwa’s new contacts provide support for their specific projects, but they also offered Mishwa guidance and perspective related to her career. Mishwa shared, “I got to connect with the owner of one of the companies who gave me advice on how I could apply my newfound marketing skills to my career as a computer science major, and that really opened my eyes.”


Advice

When asked for advice for companies who are considering Micro-Internships, Mishwa encouraged employers to give students the opportunity to build the confidence she has gained from these experiences.

“Maybe we don’t have the confidence in our skills, but we have the skills. We’re in college to learn them and we’re excited to give our best and apply our curiosities and our passions. Parker Dewey is a great place to find people that can help you succeed.”

For students, she encourages them to take the leap and apply, even if they don’t think they’re ready. Of her own experience, Mishwa admitted, “I didn’t think that I really had any experience or skills to make meaningful contributions, but it’s really just a matter of believing in yourself and seeking out help when needed. It’s ok to be honest and admit what you do and don’t know. Many of the supervisors are willing to teach and have the patience to guide.”

Mishwa also encouraged fellow Career Launchers to keep one eye on the future as they apply to these short-term projects, advising “It’s a great opportunity for a short term project, but also building relationships that could lead to something else.”


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