Forget about coffee runs and printing papers, here are eight real things and important lessons I’ve learned from my internship at Qualifio.
1. There’s always more to learn
I love school. I love learning. I underline sentences that catch my attention and write in the margin of my books. Simply put, I’ve always been kind of a school geek. I’m the kind of person who gets excited by the learning aspect of things. (What if I learned how to code? Can I be taught public speaking skills? Wouldn’t gender studies be the dream!?) I often find myself trying new things, whether it’s traveling to a unknown place, discovering yet another social app, or trying out a new cake recipe (my coworkers would know!)
Now let’s be honest: I don’t always have/make the time for it. For example, I’ve been wanting to learn Italian for some time now. So I bought a book and left in on my desk, hoping that at some point the language would just get into my brain as if by magic. Needless to say, it’s not that much efficient and I don’t recommend using this method. But my point is, I see learning as fun.
So no matter how busy I may be in my future life, I hope I never, ever, ever stop learning. I’m pretty sure that’s basically the whole point of life. And work, too. During my time at Qualifio, I was taught to be eager to learn everything I can be taught. An internship is the perfect time to do just that!
Lesson 1: Take the opportunity to absorb everything like a sponge, from corporate culture to more specific knowledge to technical skills.
2. Don’t worry, just ask
When I started my internship, I had no idea what to expect from my coworkers or managers. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that they wanted to help me grow. And they did, both professionally and personally.
Curiosity is important in the world of work and it’s something we can develop by keeping an open mind and asking questions. At first I was a little nervous to bother anyone by asking questions, but I quickly realized that they wanted me to do so. As an intern at Qualifio, I never felt “dumb” or vulnerable asking for an explanation or seeking clarification. Obviously, being surrounded by people who are willing to share their knowledge made it easier for me.
This is one of my favorite things about my internship: I never actually felt like an intern. My opinion was never dismissed or regarded as somewhat inferior by the others. On the contrary. I was always given a chance to stand up for myself and explain why I believed I was right.
Lesson 2: You were given a tongue for a reason (and obviously, mine’s pretty sharp). Use it.
3. Challenge yourself
Also known as “The magic happens outside of your comfort zone”.
Success requires an enormous amount of discomfort. But I knew that already. Yet working at Qualifio, one thing particularly struck me: I always felt like my supervisors encouraged me to take initiatives. And that’s important. With the willingness to learn come the challenges, and during my time as an intern at Qualifio, I’ve been encouraged to go further and do better on a daily basis.
Lesson 3: The only way to continuous improvement is through the trial and error method. Even if it’s not always successful, you still learn a lot on how you can improve your work.
4. It’s much better to be smart than to look smart
Being only 22 and breaking into the corporate world was a bit awkward... and has made me more humble. It reminded me of how young I actually am (as I always say, I’m the baby of the team!) In my view, being the intern amounts to being the one who knows the least. About everything. While that didn’t turn out to be completely true —my good work at Qualifio was largely recognized and my contributions were valued— I soon realized that I wasn’t a marketing genius (yet. That doesn’t mean I cannot become one!)
But you know what? It’s okay. It’s the way things are supposed to be. There is no point in pretending you’re already a rock star in your field —you’re probably not fooling anyone anyway. So don’t assume you know. In most cases, you don’t. Plus, you’re not going to earn consideration or be taken more seriously for it. In fact, a know-it-all is possibly one of the most unimpressive things in the world. Your colleagues will likely respect you more for being humble and admitting your lack of experience.
Lesson 4: Admitting I am wrong is certainly something I have to improve upon. But hey, we’re all works in progress.
5. Ask for feedback
I’m a firm believer in the power of diversity. While this isn’t exactly the hallmark at Qualifio (or in the tech sector in general), we still all come from different places. I believe that we have something to learn from everyone (I repeat, everyone) and that seeking the opinion of other people is a great way to broaden your mind and come up with innovate ideas. So another thing I learned during my internship is how important it is to be able to ask for help and how valuable feedback can prove.
Lesson 5: Knowing what people are really thinking about you or your work is truly a gift.
6. Good grades don’t mean you’re going to do well
High exam scores aren’t relevant outside of school. Because in life, they’re not going to ask you about your grades. Yet we’re often wrong about what intelligence really is and where success comes from. Being book smart isn’t what it takes to be successful in the real world. Emotional intelligence, fire in the belly, enjoyment of learning, will to achieve, creativity… That matters.
Of course, I am grateful to have had an education. It certainly gave me the tools I needed to get started. But there are things you just can’t learn in school. As a matter of fact, my past three months as an intern at Qualifio have been more enriching than any education I could have received in that timeframe.
Lesson 6: You can only get so much experience while studying. The rest has to be learnt on the job.
7. Your job is supposed to be fun
One thing my internship at Qualifio was definitely not, was boring. And that’s good, given that one of my greatest fears is to end up spending my life working a job that bores me to death, at best being on autopilot. I’ve heard so many stories about people who are unhappy at work, staying in jobs they hate because they feel trapped. I think our work shouldn’t be something we anticipate with horror each morning when we wake up. It’s a terrible way to think of things, especially since we’re probably going to work longer than previous generations. Plus, I don’t believe human beings were made for that.
I get it. Happiness at work is a million-dollar question and is different for each and everyone of us. Besides, it’s obvious that none of us can enjoy every element of their job. But what’s the point of spending most of our lives working if it doesn’t mean more than a paycheck?
What I want is to work in a place where I’m always learning, where the fear of failing is never a guiding principle, and where I have people I can look up to. Some of you might think I’m naive or just too young (“Ugh, Millennials!” Yes, I hear you thinking already.) I’m an incredibly optimistic person. And I think that, for now, “I’ll quit the day it stops being fun” is a damn good way to look at my professional life.
Lesson 7: If I am going to spend a third of my life working, I might as well enjoy it.
8. It’s about the people
Beyond competences, all employers have their own set of values and expectations in terms of attitudes. Not everyone can be a good culture fit. Because collaboration is much more efficient and more fun when you like the people you work with. And finding meaning in work relationships greatly contributes to making our work more enjoyable and productive.
My biggest life lesson here? No one does it alone. And I’ve been massively underestimating the power of this. No matter how much I loved my job as an intern, it’s the people who make Qualifio such a great place to work. As of day one, my coworkers welcomed me with warm smiles and ridiculously silly jokes, included me in their activities and made me feel like I was part of the team. I’ve grown to love the people I worked with and met each day. And I think that seems worth sticking around for.
This article originally appeared on the blog of Qualifio on May 24, 2016.