Akinbola Richardson

“Get some perspective” is a phrase people toss around a lot. But over the last year, I’ve learned that perspective is a tangible skill that can be cultivated and applied to everyday work. And it’s an undervalued skill that’s made me a more confident person, and as a result, a better employee. 

It’s been almost nine months since I finished my summer as the first “Untern” at Golin, a global communications agency, and accepted a full-time gig in its Dallas office. The Golin Unternship is a first-of-its-kind, unconventional internship, where I was paid to blog about my road trip of socially-driven adventures before starting my actual job.

Now I spend my days on a wide variety of projects. My background is videography and filmmaking, and I get to use my skills in the service of our clients. Since I’ve been working full-time, I’ve been blessed with a lot of responsibility and stepped up to the challenge. I write scripts, prep for shoots, conduct the shoots and edit the videos myself. It’s a lot of work, and a lot of it involves nerves. I have to pitch my ideas and really believe in them.

Before the Unternship, I might have struggled with having so much riding on my performance. But while in the middle of a challenging project, I’m able to reflect back on my Unternship and draw on the unique perspective the experience afforded me. The Unternship itself was a kind of fear-conquering boot camp.

I hiked the Grand Canyon by myself in 120-degree weather. I had to move from place to place, talking to people from all walks of life, no matter how uncomfortable that made me. I was a 23-year-old black guy on the road, chatting with a 50-year-old white guy with a Confederate flag on his truck. But what I learned from all of those experiences was that anyone can connect with anyone else on a deep level when they really put forth the effort. Race and age stop mattering. I found similarities with people I never thought I would. And I found strength in myself that I didn’t know was there.

I can approach stressful work situations with a quiet mind. I can draw on my experiences to look at every situation in a positive light, or at least a realistic one. After the Unternship, I’ve found it easier to not blow things out of proportion. When you feel stressed out, it’s easy to let pressure build and build until it’s a big bubble over your head, suffocating you. But thanks to my experiences, I’ve learned how to pop that bubble.

The most important takeaway here is that perspective has made me a better employee. I’m able to breathe, I’m able to think creatively and provide our clients with my best work. That’s an invaluable skill, and though it isn’t a hard skill like video editing or using a camera, I believe it is tangible. I can call on it and deploy it when I need to. And I wouldn’t have it without the Unternship.

Programs like the Unternship are what make companies stand apart. At Golin, we do the same types of work that a lot of other agencies do. But the Unternship represents an attitude that makes Golin special. We create programs that innovate the way we find and harness new talent. We’re serious about evolving with the world around us. I would never be at Golin if it wasn’t for the Unternship. And it allowed me to see things in myself that I didn’t know existed. If our agency is offering that kind of unique attitude to the world, and branding ourselves in that way, I know we’ll keep thriving.