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5 in 5! with Easter Seals Florida

November 11, 2010

5 Questions. 5 Minutes. 1 Employer.  This week: Janet from Easter Seals Florida.

Easter Seals is the leading non-profit provider of services for individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, physical and mental disabilities, and other special needs. They work with children with special needs and disabilities with the ultimate goal of preparing them to enter school with no further need of intervention.

1. What do you look for when you hire an intern?

As the Director of Special Events at a non-profit organization interns are an excellent resource.  They are the unsung hero’s with fresh ideas and their experience provides them with an excellent opportunity to gain and develop professional skills.  When I interview a potential intern I look for someone with the ability to communicate effectively, maintain a high level of energy and appear to have passion.

It is important to know the individual believes in the mission of the organization and have a passion for our work.  We are a people-oriented business so the candidate enjoys interacting with people.  Because our non-profit is small employees tend to wear various hats, so finding someone who is willing to adapt and change is very important too.

2. How did you you get started in the industry? How can I get started?

My background was in hotel management; I worked for large scale hotels such as the Four Seasons franchise but always had a passion for charity work.  I spent the majority of my early years working with a variety of charities hosting large fundraiser and eventually fell into the event planning world by default.

Event planners have a knack for hosting parties and most succeed because of their passion and drive to work.  Event planning isn’t easy, it isn’t all glitz and glamour there are far more moments you are rolling up your sleeves and digging your feet in the ground to secure the unstable ground.  It takes patience, planning, excellent organizational skills and extremely effective communicative skills.  Working with event clients is like working with a child, they must feel safe and secure, they must trust you at all times.

3. What is the future of your industry?

The future is pretty stable in my eyes for non-profit event planners.  Non Profits host events to create a sense of community, expand their data base,and deliver their message to the masses.

4. What is one thing an intern can do to make a favorable impression? To make a negative impression?

It is easy to make a favorable impression- dress to impress,sit up straight, have confidence, articulate and listen actively, be friendly, show compassion, and smile!

It is just as easy to leave a negative lasting impression- acting disinterested, appearing to be nervous, slumping in your chair, lack of eye contact, and inability to show compassion.

5. Give us a positive intern story? An intern horror story?

Currently we have a Florida State graduate who is working at Easter Seals as a special events intern.  She arrived in August; we were all very excited for her to start but knew very little about her.  Her start date just happen to fall the week after a major fundraising event for ESF so all hands were occupied with post event reports and tallying.

To avoid overwhelming her I began to look for a few small items to keep her busy as I completed the event recap.  One of the projects I gave her was to research a company who had brought a new fundraising idea to ESF.   Now, I thought she would go to her computer pull up a few websites and come back with brief overview of the fundraising campaign she was researching.

She returned a bit later with her report in hand… She was so unimpressed with the answers she received online she called the company directly.  After a brief conversation with their associate she was even unsure of the product being offered so she contacted the United States government to verify the validity of this business.  I was blown away, and at that moment knew we had found one heck of gem!

Thanks Janet! Interested in working with this non-profit? You’re in luck – Easter Seals Florida is currently offering a Development/Marketing/Event Planning Internship – check it out.

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