As the spring semester at the University of Michigan was winding down, I found myself still in search of a Marketing internship for the summer. With the guidance of my acquaintance Kimberley Rudd, I found myself eagerly applying for an internship within philanthropy—an industry I never explored before. Soon after, I was scheduling the extent of my internship with my supervisor turned mentor, Cyndi Solitro—Communications and Program Director of the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance.

I was very eager to learn what went on in the day-to-day operation of the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance (CWFA) and how that was of any connection to the Chicago Community Trust. My mother was under the impression that I’d be working for a bank, and I repeatedly tried to assure her that the name did not mean a financial trust. So, my first couple of weeks spent here were filled with days of me learning how CWFA fit into this idea that organizations collaborate to improve the quality of work and work-life for Chicagoans. Even deeper than that, I learned how the different initiatives within CWFA appealed to all workforce sectors. This was the side of philanthropy that I did not know existed. As I learned more about our initiatives and partners, I began realizing that programs I was already familiar with were similar to the career pathway programs we work with at CWFA. The philanthropic industry became clearer to me then.

Some of my early projects with CWFA consisted of general content creation and distribution for our social media accounts. It was a joy to shadow Cyndi as we attended meetings and planned events all focused on improving the quality of work-life and career pathways for individuals in the city. I am honored to have met the leaders involved with other philanthropic organizations and I gained so much understanding behind the passion that drives this industry.

A bigger project that I worked on during the first half of my internship was the 2019 Financial Services Pipeline (FSP) Intern Career Conference. When I was initially assigned to the project it was for social media content creation, but as the project became more complex, so did my job. I was given the opportunity to work with another intern, Logan Wolfe, at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to develop this year’s theme for the conference and plan all workshop and networking sessions included in the conference. This project put me in an unfamiliar event planning position but allowed me to develop some of my own ideas into a tangible result. The conference ended up being a success with over 150 financial industry interns in attendance representing companies like Wintrust, BMO Harris, and Discover. It was heartwarming to watch the interns build connections with professionals in the financial industry as well as with each other. I even enjoyed the conference for myself and was inspired by every speaker’s story and career advice.

Witnessing the impact that an organization like FSP had on real people added to the respect I was gaining for this industry. The work was fulfilling and I learned from the experience. Another project I worked on was the development and launch of a social media contest with the purpose of increasing engagement on Reimagine Retail Chicagoland’s social media platforms. This contest was aimed to shine light on employees in the hospitality and retail sectors who entered their perspective companies at an entry level position and acquired the skills necessary to continue climbing their company’s career ladder. It is important to emphasize the career pathway that can be created from a job in hospitality or retail and this contest did just that. In order to complete this project, I consulted several communications professionals in philanthropy for advice and guidance. I was able to compile what I learned and used these insights to launch our first ever social media contest.

Over the course of my entire internship, I was also highly involved in an overall intern program with several other philanthropic foundations. This consisted of a Cubs game, networking with leaders in philanthropy, and My GPS sessions that allowed us to craft our own narrative for future career purposes. These sessions were highly influential during my time here with CWFA and allowed me to connect with other interns in my similar position while improving my soft skills along the way.

All of my projects this summer allowed me to become well-versed in graphic design, website creation, and social media curation. Before taking this internship I did not know what to expect and now after 11 weeks with the Chicago Community Trust, and more specifically the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, I know to take advantage of every opportunity given to me. I was exposed to sides of both philanthropy and marketing that I never got to experience before and as a result, I am much more comfortable in my pursuit into a career in marketing. I am grateful for Cyndi Solitro taking a chance on me and helping me dive deeper into the marketing experience. The work environment and quality was much greater than what I could’ve hoped for in an internship and I am extremely thankful for how welcoming the entire Chicago Community Trust team has been. I hope to take the skills and information I’ve learned here at the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance with me for all of my future career endeavors.