How to create your own path and land the opportunity of your dreams
Updated: Nov 13, 2019
I worked two internships during my summers in college, both of which I ended up returning to for more work and growth. I spent two summers working with master's and doctorate candidates in a neuroscience lab at a university in the UK, and I traveled to Poland twice as a journalist for an English-language magazine about Polish affairs.
I'd been actively interested in studying the neurological condition synesthesia since I was in elementary school. Jamie Ward's name was at the top of the field; he'd written books and published more studies than any other researcher about synesthesia. One day, I impulsively sent him an email expressing my interest in his work and asking if he had any need for an intern to work in his lab over the summer. He seemed satisfied with my resume, and one Skype interview later, I'd been officially invited to work with him over the summer. I enjoyed the internship so much that I returned to the UK the following summer to continue my research. My two summers of work resulted in two published studies in respected neuroscience/psychology journals. I was amazed by the fact that such a simple email helped me create my own internship and carve a spot for myself in a field that interested me since I was young.
I'd also been avid about journalism and writing for most of my life. I wanted to combine that interest with my passion for Slavic Studies, which is how I discovered an English-language magazine in Poland that aimed to distribute news about the nation to the rest of Europe in a more accessible language. Again, on an impulse, I emailed the founder with my resume and short summary of why I wanted to work with his team. I went through a Skype interview, just like I had with my first internship, and promptly began making plans to travel to Poland. Several of my articles were published in the following issue of the journal, and I enjoyed my experience so much that I returned to Warsaw again in the winter to write more articles for the next issue.
Of course, impulsively emailing managers or CEOs won't always work, but it does have its benefits. It exhibits you as an enthusiastic, passionate, and driven candidate who will be committed to working for that company. In addition, you have nothing to lose other than hearing "no." If the answer isn't a "no," then you have so much to gain from the opportunities that you end up designing for yourself. You can also claim to be a trailblazer: someone who takes initiative and creates their own path in life.