Takeaways from a first internship
I clearly remember taking a deep breath before I nervously walked in on my first day. What I remember even more clearly is the whirlwind of an experience that followed.
I was interning as a product designer with a leading healthcare and fitness start-up in India- Cure.fit. This was my first ever internship and seeing all these grown-ups around me was pretty intimidating. I clearly remember taking a deep breath before I nervously walked in on my first day. What I remember even more clearly is the whirlwind of an experience that followed.
As time progressed, many of my previously held notions about professional life (and life in general) broke down, making way for newer, (hopefully) better-rounded ones. Some of these changes happened by faltering and some through observation. This article seeks to document these changes.
I hope this proves to be an interesting read if not a particularly helpful one.
Let’s get started.
Potential employers expect you to be extremely good at what you do, therefore, you’ve got to be correct every single time.
They don’t expect you to be a master of the craft and it’s ok to be wrong sometimes. It’s great if you’re good at what you do but humility, openness to feedback and curiosity are hugely appreciated and are pretty much indispensable, especially if you’re an intern or a fresher as you don’t have one-fifth the knowledge or experience that the regular employees have. It is, therefore, really important that you’re not stubborn about your solutions, are willing to accept your mistakes and are eager to learn because that way it’ll be easier for them to teach you and in turn easier to work with you. Talking about easy-to-work-with people…
Being too specific or firm about what you need is impolite and makes you come across as fussy.
Learnings through struggle:
While this may be true in our day to day life, it has no standing in a professional setting.
Being as specific as possible is probably the most polite thing you can do in a professional set up.
You should be specific about how much bandwidth you have, you should be specific about the data that you need to complete a particular task, you should be specific (and practical) about your deadlines (and stick to them), you should be specific in your doubts. You should be as specific as possible wherever possible because by being specific, you are not leaving things up to people’s interpretations (thereby minimizing errors) and you are not generating unintended expectations. When you are specific, you and the people around you know exactly what to expect, there are minimum misunderstandings, and everybody loves you. It’s pure bliss.
Being so specific, however, is tough and takes courage and immense clarity. Nevertheless, one can always try.
You shouldn’t have a laugh while at work, because if you do then no one will take you seriously.
People with a good sense of humor and a chilled out disposition are as loved in workplaces as they are in house parties (of course, they have to be sincere about their job too).
My mentor was one of the most respected guys in his field and he had a brilliant sense of humor. Wherever he sat, the atmosphere seemed to lighten up instantly. This made him seem extremely approachable despite the fact that he was one of the seniormost people around. You could go and talk to him about anything and be absolutely sure that he’d be able to handle it with great calm and grace.
Good teamwork simply means being nice to people and not fighting.
Contrary to what I believed before, good teamwork does not merely mean being nice to your teammates and not fighting (welcome to adulthood, Komal). In fact, healthy debates form an essential part of churning out a good product.
Good teamwork, however, requires great intra-team communication as the whole team needs to be on the same page when it comes to envisioning the product. Being too ambitious without your team can be disastrous for the product. Talking about good communication:
If you have good command over the English language (or any other language used as the official medium of communication in a particular organization), you automatically become good at communication.
Learnings through struggle:
Good communication is tough. And it is certainly more than just good command over English. Good communication takes patience, courage, and insane organizational skills.
It takes patience to keep your team informed of every new change, courage to own up to your mistakes or to say things as they are without beating around the bush and organizational skills to be able to keep track of progress and all your past conversations so that you don’t repeat yourself or contradict yourself or miss-communicate important updates.
Some other learnings
Being organized is under-rated.
Simple things like naming your files well, sorting things properly, maintaining your emails in relevant threads, keeping lists and notes can make a world of difference and save immense time and energy. And if you are not particular about these little things, all your hard work gets lost in this chaos. Most of your time and energy go in finding relevant files, responding to reminders and feeling inadequate.
Listening closely is an invaluable skill.
When you don’t listen to a person properly and jump to conclusions, he feels insulted and loses inclination to work with you.
Jumping to conclusions without hearing the other person out might seem like a sign of great intuition, it’s really not. Being a good listener takes immense confidence in yourself (that you’ll be able to put your point forward later, that the world won’t end if you don’t speak up immediately) and in your colleague (that they’re smart and they’ve thought it through thoroughly … more so than you think). I sometimes struggled with the first bit and the second bit turned out to be true more often than not… so I try to keep this in mind. Still struggling, but getting better.
Asking the right questions is, more often than not, tougher than finding the right answers.
The answers to most questions are out there but whether or not they will help you, depends on whether your questions are right. But there’s a catch here,
which brings me to my next point:
Turns out, the world is grey.
There is no absolute right or wrong, black or white. Every solution can get better, every inference can get more accurate. The sky is almost always the limit.
Most people are almost always right… but they could’ve been ‘righter’. However, it is difficult to tell because there are no teachers with the right answers here. Just your own judgment and once your work is public - the results.
The word ‘experience’ is a lot heavier in essence than it is in the definition.
If you ever take the time to sit down with a person double your age and talk to them honestly about your life, you’ll be surprised at how well they understand you and how much of it they’ve actually been through themselves. I can tell because I did that. Towards the end of my internship, I took feedback and advice from every person I’d worked with and it was truly life-changing. I found answers to so many questions I’d been struggling with.
People my age (early twenties) usually tend to ignore advice from those older than us and I honestly feel that we underutilize these members of the society. It’s very appreciable to rebel or do things your own way but an occasional good discussion with someone older can sometimes pave the way for a better-aimed rebellion.
That’s all from my side. Thank you for reading. All constructive questions and discussions are welcome. If you liked it then hit on the clap to let me know. :)