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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Lilli Carruthers: Preparing for the real world through in-person and virtual experiences

By Lilli Carruthers

As I start my freshman year of college during one of the most tumultuous times in history, I can’t help but think about my former and future classmates as we transition into this new normal together.

Going from high school to college is overwhelming as it is, but with a global pandemic thrown into the mix, there’s a whole new level of uncertainty.

I was fortunate to maintain some consistency this summer through my part-time job and virtual internship. These experiences helped me dial in to current events and feel ready for my next phase in life.

As one of 300 Bank of America Student Leaders this summer, I gained professional experience along with personal skills. The six-week virtual paid internship was jam-packed with activities like building financial literacy, fighting for racial equality and presenting on civic education.

Another local student leader and I worked closely with the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC) on their visual arts program and learned about their inclusivity efforts. We even got to help the MAC pick out art pieces for a future exhibit. By participating in the bank’s program and working with the MAC, I gained greater insight into civic engagement, leadership and how Spokane businesses are contributing to the community and addressing important issues around diversity, equity and inclusion.

While this all took place virtually, I also maintained an in-person, part-time job, which taught me how to manage my schedule and communicate effectively. I know I’ve only scratched the surface of the professional world, but I’ve been fortunate to gain helpful knowledge early through my experiences this summer. I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned with other students, or even with teachers, parents and potential employers. Even if you’re in a virtual setting, you can still have a positive experience by doing the following:

· Listening. Not only is listening essential to learning, it’s critical for being a more effective leader. Working with the MAC really taught me how important listening is to better serve others and make sure everyone feels like they are in a safe space to voice opinions.

· Asking questions. With the virtual format, I found it important to ask more questions than I would in person. This helped me gain confidence in my work and better support my projects.

· Living in the moment. If there’s one thing we all learned this past year, it’s that a lot is out of our control. It’s important to remember to live in the moment and not stress over the uncontrollable. This mindset helped me get the most out of each activity and interaction.

· Striking balance. The biggest challenge I faced was balancing a part-time job and a full-time internship. The first couple of weeks, I felt scattered and overwhelmed. But with time, I learned how to divide my attention effectively, staying focused and fully present for the task at hand.

· Making connections. The biggest benefit of my internship being virtual was getting to meet more people than I would in person. I got to connect with so many inspiring professionals and learn all I could from them. I can’t say enough about the importance of putting yourself out there and networking. This helped me gain confidence communicating with people in a professional manner.

Overall, I encourage my peers to get outside their comfort zones and explore work or internship opportunities early on. Putting together a resume, applying for a job and going through the interview process is so valuable.

The lessons I learned as a student leader will stick with me through my next chapter, giving me skills to be a better leader and a more an active member of the community. I’m excited for what’s to come and hope my classmates are, too.

Lilli Carruthers is a 2020 Bank of America Student Leader and recent North Central High School graduate. Lilli is attending Whitworth University in the fall and plans to study pre-dentistry.

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