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Discovering Your Passion When You Least Expect It

February 23, 2012

Thomas Frank, Founder of College Info Geek

Thomas Frank (@tomfrankly) is the founder and head geek at College Info Geek, a college blog that publishes tips on studying, technology, money, music, and other student-related topics.

He started College Info Geek for fun, read all about how he did it, and it now has become one of the highest-trafficked  sites on the ‘net. Thomas was also a regular ol’ intern for a short time, and here’s how it went.

By Thomas Frank

During the summer of 2011 I interned at Principal Financial Group. Whenever anyone asks me about it, I’m honest and tell them that I didn’t really enjoy it that much. However, I’m really glad I did it, as I view it as an essential experience for anyone.

To be fair, the internship was really good, and I know objectively that The Principal is a great company to work for. They treated me like a true employee there; the only time I felt like an “intern” rather than an employee was when I attended intern-specific events and gatherings. Otherwise, I was given the same work as the rest of my team, I was just as independent as anyone else, and they pulled no punches when it came to the complexity of the job.

“The internship truly showed me what it’s like to do 9-5, five days a week”

However, the biggest reason I’m glad I did the internship is because I truly learned what working is like. Sure, you can get work experience by doing 15 hours a week in an on-campus job, or spending your summer manning the counter at a Target food court, but that isn’t real work experience. The internship truly showed me what it’s like to do 9-5, five days a week (though Principal had flex time and I did four 10’s). I learned what it’s like to be a part of a big company, and I learned that my personality is more suited to independent work. Being a cog in the machine just isn’t my style. Spending three months as one has strengthened my resolve to be an entrepreneur.

As far as cool stories go, I do have one: I was doing my normal work one day when a coworker came up and asked me to do a special project. Basically, the project entailed pulling up a list of 500 different IP addresses, clicking on each one, pasting in some data into about five fields, saving, and repeating. He told me I’d have to do each one manually, even though the data for each was the same, and I found that doing one took about a minute with all the loading involved. So 500 IPs x a minute on each on = 500 minutes (over 8 hours) of work. I was not about to do the same copy and paste sequence over and over for eight hours, so I wrote a script that took control of the computers mouse and keyboard, added a loop that changed the IP to edit every time, and then watched movies on Netflix all day while it ran. At the end of the day, I finished the project, walked over to my coworker and informed him that I’d just spend the entire day watching movies. He ended up being really impressed with how I did the project and asked me to show him how I’d done it.

Great story – who knew you could get so much out of being bored 😉 Did your internship help you discover your passion, even if the internship itself was passionless? Share your story in the comments below.

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