Everything in life has to be taken as a learning experience. It starts from when we are born all the way through adulthood; or that moment we are about graduate from college and freaking out because we are about to leave our comfort zone again. However, there are ways to prepare ourselves and internships during college can help us gain that confidence for the real world we are about to enter and be a part of. In this piece I will talk about what has motivated me to strive for success, the do’s and dont’s for your internship, and just brief reminders that we tend to forget.
F for Failure
I had always felt a certain pressure from family and society that I must have everything in life figured out and to make sure I was successful. That pressure to be successful and not waste the investment and time I put towards anything made me terrified of being called a FAILURE. However, success to me is going against all of the above. I learned that I needed to fail in order to improve as a person, both in my professional settings and personal relationships. And this is not to say that it is ever easy to fall and start over, but that’s what risks are for, right? Whatever choice I make I know there is a slight risk of failing, but is the perseverance that ends up counting in the end. For example, right now I am in a position where I need to carefully choose how I will interact with clients because everyone is different and their individuality needs to be valued and altered to. In conclusion, everyday is a learning experience and in order to improve I try to remember at the end of my day the interactions and materials I used to properly convey my ideas to peers and clients. If I feel I could’ve done something different I don’t see it as a failing moment, I see it as a chance to learn from it and make a mental note on how I can improve it next time. Everything in life can be a learning experience. Even if some of those moments are complete fails, I can use them as stepping stones, a prototype, or a practice round for the actual successful outcome.
Time to Learn How to Adult
Being an intern can be intimidating, especially if we do not have any prior professional experience or have been accustomed to professional settings. However, being humble and showing your peers and supervisors that you are there to learn can give you and them a chance to grow. The following are some things that have helped my development as a professional and as a person during my internship.
Ask questions and take notes! Everyone takes notes differently. I personally like color coordinating and have neat notes to function. However, my current internship cannot wait for me to pull out my highlighters. There is going to be a lot to learn and taking notes might make it seem that you are invested in learning, but it may help you remember later that night what was said at 9am that day. Also, asking questions even if you may need to ask it twice or three times. It is better to get clarification than to not learn something properly that may end up being crucial to the job. Although it is an internship, this habit might become useful for your potential future jobs when you’re training or learning something new. Plus, curiosity is what keeps us engaged, so why not get as much out of it as you can.
I say the next thing to keep in mind is once there is an understanding of how things run, there may be some dependency on you to start making decisions. This responsibility will make you nervous, have you second guess everything you learned, and will make you wish you were back in bed waiting for your 10am class to start. However, the time has come to pull yourself from your boot straps, be an adult, and be confident. There have been times during my internship that I was given a project to complete and I would come across a problem I didn’t know the answer to. What helped me become efficient, was bringing the problem up to my supervisor and giving them one or two possible solutions that may fix the issue. This will give them a sense that I able to delegate and have the capability to problem solve. Going to your supervisor with a problem and no independent thought may not be too impressive.
Aside from taking notes about how to efficiently be good at your internship, take mental notes for yourself. This may be a good time to start picking out what you like from your internship and what you can live without. Sometimes realizing that we do not have the slightest idea what we are going to do after college can be frightening. Thankfully, you already took a step to start figuring that out early by doing an internship. Start asking yourself questions such as, “Do I see myself working in a place like this?”, “What kind of experience do I need to get a specific position?”, or “Do I like being supervised or do I prefer being my own boss?”. The questions can be endless, but at least you are giving yourself room to start planning what you want to do in life. If you have the chance to observe different departments or interact with peers outside your responsibilities, go for it! I have been able to form my own questions from these interactions and have started to question what I want to do as my next step. Do not limit yourself, try to reach for more if you can.
It is Just As Important as Being “Proficient” in Excel
There are many competencies we execute during our internships, but there is one that I feel needs to always be remembered and practiced no matter the circumstances. Professionalism and work ethic is used everyday during every interaction, assignment and collaboration. And this I believe is universal and can apply to many settings, even if you’re your own boss.
My internship involved interacting with a variety of staff members, a team, service providers, and with clients. I know that you may be thinking that this is a given and that of course we have to act professional and have good work ethic. However, sometimes we may forget about our professionalism and work ethic when we are having a bad day, are overloaded with work, or our mistakes get the best of us. I have had to learn how to take a step back and think about how to proceed cautiously without jeopardizing anyone else’s professionalism because negativity can be contagious. If I noticed that I was falling behind on replying to emails, I always prioritized the most urgent ones and always started with a sincere apology. No matter who it may be they deserve respect and proper communication because their time is valuable, as well. The most common way to forget my professionalism is if I had a bad start to my day and that attitude was carried into my workplace. This is where I really have had to reevaluate and separate my personal life from my professional one. Not only are my personal problems going to affect my work and concentration, but my inefficiency will be passed to my coworkers who have trusted me to be professional and cooperative. This becomes even more crucial when client is involved. We as a team or company want to make sure we are competent and professional in our delivery of our services, and not inadequate or lacking integrity. Therefore, always remember to check how your work ethic and your delivery of professionalism will affect your overall experience with everyone.