When the Last Opportunity Becomes the Best Opportunity

by Ryan Lachappelle, who has been interning at Wildcard Corp.

As a college student heading into my last semester, I had a lot of concerns and uncertainty. You overhear all of your peers talking about their internships and job offers after graduation, and you feel like you’re behind when all you have done is work maintenance for a factory throughout your college career. In August of 2016, I finished another summer of factory work, and had had enough of despising everything about my job. So, I told myself that I was done, and needed to find an internship sometime in that school year.

A couple weeks into the semester, once I had a feel for my classes and schedule, I started to actively look for an internship. I wanted to stay within a 20 minute drive of Stevens Point. Otherwise, I think it would seriously conflict with school between classes, group projects, and just getting enough time into the internship itself for it to be worth while. After a week of research, and exhausting all of my resources, I found 3 internships that were close to me and in my field of study. I spent the following 2 days polishing my resume, and writing a cover letter for each position, and I sent them out and waited. A couple of weeks went by and I heard nothing, now I’m worried. A number of thoughts were running through my head: Did I mess up my resume? Do I not meet the qualifications? What if I don’t get an internship? I can’t graduate without one.

I was terrified.

After 3 weeks of waiting, I got a call. It was also my first choice, and I wanted it bad. The interview was set up for the next day, so I had no time to mess around. I went over possible questions I would be asked, researched the company, and made sure I had the clothes I wanted to wear all ready to go. I was prepared. I went to bed that night both excited and anxious, so I ended up only getting a few hours of sleep. This was the first job that I was interviewing for where I didn’t know someone within the company or business, I had no help at all. The next morning, all I could think about was how nervous I was. I got ready and headed out the door, jumping up another step to adulthood.

After the interview I felt pretty good. I didn’t stutter, I had the answers to all of their questions, and we had conversations about my interests. I thought I had the internship in the bag. After about a week-and-a-half of waiting, I got the call. I answered almost immediately, but they informed me that they chose another candidate. I was too confident about my chances, and the news had me really bummed out. The next day, I went to go talk to the campus internship director to see what kind of internships are out there that I haven’t found on my own. It turned out that finding internships mid-semester was very difficult, and that applying for summer internships during the spring semester gave me the best opportunity. I decided to focus on my classes for the rest of the fall semester, and look into the summer internships over winter break.

I spent my winter break updating and polishing my resume again, and researching internships in both the Stevens Point area and the Manitowoc area, since my family is from there. Once I compiled all of the internships that I was interested in and that fit my major, I sent out my resumes and cover letters. Being the impatient person that I am, and not realizing that summer was still 4 months away, after 2 weeks of not hearing anything I started to feel uneasy and panic a little bit. It got to the point where I went back and checked if I sent my resumes to the right email addresses. I decided I would give it until the middle of March before I would start emailing these places back and start looking for other internships as well.

The first week of March rolled around, and while walking out of class, I checked my phone and had a missed call and voicemail from a number I didn’t recognize. I didn’t even think of it as being someone calling about an internship. I listened to the voicemail, and it was a local baseball team that wanted to set up a phone interview about an Event Management internship. I was caught off guard, yet so excited. I called them back as soon as I got back to my apartment, and set up a time for a phone interview. Okay, I thought, I have another opportunity to get my foot in the door, get some references for jobs when I graduate, and gain some experience for the real world. I also had great interest in this internship because I am a big baseball fan, and I thought it would be pretty cool to work for a baseball team for the summer.

I had time to prepare for this interview. I spent a lot of my time researching the team, and getting an understanding of the position that I had applied for. I felt that I was very prepared, but I didn’t want to be too confident and end up with that feeling of great disappointment like last time. On the day of the interview, I felt very nervous. I am not someone who is very good on the phone, especially with people I don’t know, so the minutes leading up to the interview were gut wrenching. That’s when the unsettling thoughts about not getting an internship came back in my head. Then my phone started to ring, and I answered.

The interview went better than I expected. I had a great understanding of what I would be doing, and I felt good about my chances since there were three positions available. To my surprise, I got a call two days later and they offered me one of the positions. I was ecstatic.

Unfortunately, this internship was very low paying, and I wasn’t sure if I could live off that kind of income for the summer. I decided to keep up the search for a different internship, and see if I could get one that paid enough for me to live on for three months. Unfortunately, I was unable to find one, so despite not having any luck finding a better paying internship for the summer, I decided to give it a try anyway.

During my first week I learned a lot. There is a lot that goes into a sporting event, even for a stadium that only seats a few thousand people. I ended up working about 30 hours that week, and I thought that would be okay. I could get a part time job to make extra money and this internship would work out. Then the first week of games started. I quickly realized that I would have no time for a part time job. On games days, we were expected to be there for 14+ hours setting up and closing the ballpark. On days the team was away, we had to stock the ballpark, or work the little league games that are played there. After my first two weeks, I had a long talk with my family about my options. I didn’t want to quit, but I could not afford to keep this internship. I had enough money to live on for about two weeks, so I decided to quit and look hard for another internship in the area. If I still hadn’t found one after I depleted my funds, it would be another summer of factory work back home.

The first three days after I quit, I spent all day every day doing all the research I could. I checked my email about new internships in Stevens Point, did Google searches, and even emailed companies that didn’t have any internships offered to see if they would give me a shot. While scrolling through my school email, I noticed a list of internships sent to me by the internship director that I had probably scrolled through 100 times. I thought I would give it one last look. I must have not scrolled through the entire list because there were about five that I had not checked out, one being the Administrative Internship at Wildcard Corp.

I have never heard of this company before, but the name intrigued me. My first association was with playing cards, and I love to play poker, so I clicked on the link. While reading through the job description, I became very interested. This is exactly the position I was looking for. I immediately read through my resume, and wrote a whole new cover letter and sent them out. A week later, I received an email from the Director of Operations asking me to come in for an interview, and had a good feeling about this one.

After doing research on the company, and preparing for what was the most important interview in my life so far, I was ready. I felt confident going in. The interview was different than any other I had before. I was used to a question-and-answer type of interview, but Gregg had his own way of doing things. We had more of a conversation about myself and the company than anything else. We even talked about sports, and I can’t forget his famous critical thinking questions. After the interview, I felt like I was already part of the Wildcard team. I left with a feeling that I got the position, and a week later Gregg called me offering me the internship. I was beyond happy, and I couldn’t wait to get started.

My first week at Wildcard was even better than I expected. I felt welcomed by all members of the staff, I was given my own cubicle, and I learned a lot about the company. I thought it was cool that Talin, the CEO, was also the President of the Association of Downtown Businesses (ADB), and put on every event that happens downtown like the 4th of July parade, Discover Downtown, and the Wine Walk. Being able to help out with of the planning for these events was really great. Event planning was something I never thought I would enjoy, but seeing the event going on and people having fun is a really cool feeling when you had a hand in it.

What really interested me about Wildcard was how flexible they are with their employees being able to do things they need to within the work hours. I have never heard of an employee just being able to leave to take care of anything they need to, and being able to make up that time whenever and really wherever they want. I felt like I was where I belonged.

As the summer went on, I learned so much. Wildcard was in the middle of doing a lot of hiring when I started, so a lot of my tasks were human-resource based. The biggest task I had this summer was to evaluate 12 interns for the two positions available for the summer and fall, go over each one with my boss and choose who we wanted to bring in for interviews. I got to sit in and help interview these candidates, and help with the decision making for who we should hire. I thought it was pretty cool that I was trusted with helping to make these kinds of decisions.

The best part was that I learned that I had a knack for doing human resource tasks. I had taken a human resource course in school and did well in it, but I never thought that it would become a career path I would think about taking. What makes Wildcard great is that they let you try different things to see what you like, and what you’re good at. This is something that I value greatly, being a Wildcard employee, and I will instill that in my management style when I reach that level in my career.

My summer at Wildcard was the best summer I have had since I began college, and the fact that Wildcard feels more like a family than a company is what I enjoy most about working here. It is pretty amazing to me that my very last chance for an internship became the best opportunity for me, and continuing to work for Wildcard during my last semester of college is exciting. As I approach the finish line, I have a lot of uncertainty about my future, some regrets about things I wish I had done, and thankfulness for the opportunities I have been given over the last four years. I want to thank Wildcard for giving me this great opportunity, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for me.