I have never been the “go with the flow”, “let it roll off your back” type of person. I am a do-er, a planner and, admittedly, a brown-nosing overachiever type. All of this adds up to one fact: I have not yet learned let my mistakes go, even the small ones.
During the first month or so at my internship, I chalked my mistakes up to the fact that I was new and I simply did not have the experience required to be perfect at my job despite the nagging thoughts in the back of my mind that said I should be executing my work perfectly anyway. Even now, I internally cringe when I get an email back saying that my work was not #flawless every time.
Unlike Beyonce, I’m not #FLAWLESS
And it is not just work – I do not want to make the wrong life choices either (really, who does?) like where to live or what to do with free time. No matter how many times someone tells me that it is ok to make mistakes or that mistakes could even be good, I remain skeptical because not making mistakes just sounds so much more appealing.
The truth is that whether we take one job or another, whether we stay close to home or strike out to find a new adventure in a new city or whether we spend our free time partying with friends or in bed watching Netflix, there will almost certainly be things we wished we had done differently. The key is to give yourself a break every once in a while because even though some may say it is time for us to start “adulting”, we still have quite a few years left to make mistakes that will eventually make us who we are. Even if we do not want to.
My last piece of advice to any new intern is to simply be a friend to the people you work with.Whether you report to a team, a supervisor or a different person every week- the best way to understand the company is to understand the people working there and helping them understand you.
Maybe not this friendly
While you may not get along with every person the same, there is a level of respect you gain for a person when you know more than just what they eat for lunch everyday. You’ll find that some are more open to side chatter throughout the day or ‘punny’ emails in their inbox. You’ll also find the guy with the headphones that still looks at you with the “can you be quiet” face even when he has music playing in his ears. Although you are in a temporary role as an intern, don’t discredit your personality in the work place. This is what creates that office culture.
A few simple ways to ‘be a friend’ inside the office:
- Throw out the idea to do something out of the ordinary one day a week to learn what your colleagues are interested in (like a favorite t-shirt contest)
- Ask for suggestions of places to go around the city- you may learn that your boss is actually part of a running club that tries a new pub every Tuesday (true story)
- Tag along with someone to grab lunch (they’ll most likely pay since you’re poor)
- Offer to play some tunes or ask what they are always jamming out to with their headphones plugged in (ask that one guy with the headphones always in)
I came from an office of all women, champagne at lunch, and Chris Brown Pandora station playing Monday-Friday to an almost silent office of middle-aged men with a fridge full of expired sauces and La Croix (sparkling water). While these experiences are extremely different, they are both enjoyable and memorable- because of the friends I’ve made of the day one colleagues.
Summer is right around the corner and you may start to notice that it’s getting harder to stay focused on the job while catching a glimpse at the beams of light that shed through your office blinds on a regular basis. Although we may live in Oregon, I think it’s important that we learn ways to avoid becoming distracted in the workplace as we spiral through the remaining of Spring term.
Use a planner and take notes
When I have a lot of different things going on at once, I have noticed that it’s much easier to become distracted by my own thoughts in my head than anything else. If you’re always asking yourself “What do I have to do next?” or “What do I have to do today?” then you’ll never get anything done. In this case, disorganization can be your worst enemy. It’s essential that you record things in your planner or take notes on a daily basis so you always know what needs to be done.
Prioritize the things that need to be done
When dealing with so many tasks at hand, how do you know which ones to focus on first? At the beginning of your day, collect a list of all your tasks, and arrange the order in which you will complete all your day’s tasks by the level of importance you place on each task. By the end of the day, you may have not completed all your desired tasks, but at least you will have completed the tasks that matter to you and to your supervisor or boss.
Put away all distractions
According to an article written by The Huffington Post, millennials waste more than 2x as much time on the Internet and social media as Boomers but also slightly more than Gen X’ers while at work. That’s really something to take into consideration when a majority of of supervisors are from older generations. So put your cell phone away, log off that social media account you’ve been itching to check out all day, and stay focused on what needs to be done in the present.
One of the most daunting things about being an intern in an unfamiliar workplace is feeling like you are a true part of the team and not just a temporary employee. There are a few things I’ve found that aid in the process of becoming integrated in a new workplace environment:
- Match what you experience, but don’t disappear in the process: This is in reference to the clothes people wear to work (business formal, business casual, casual, etc.) and also in reference to the way people communicate with each other. Does most of the communication take place over email? Does the company use printed work orders or an elaborate sticky note system? Is it acceptable to approach someone’s desk or office directly and talk? The way you dress and how you approach your coworkers definitely distinguishes how much you fit in with the company norms.
- Work as often as your co-workers work: The way I have made connections with coworkers outside of my team is by being the only intern in the office until at least 5:30pm and on Fridays. Since I am at the office as often as full-time employees, I’ve had more opportunities to help out supervisors that I wouldn’t normally be working with which has created meaningful connections.
Don’t be a robot: The most frustrating thing I have experienced as an intern is feeling like you are in a “3 month interview” and thinking that means you need to be a robotic worker bee. I have found that the more I express myself and stay true to my personality in the office, the more connections I make with coworkers. It’s better to have fun and enjoy the place you are working at and the people you are working with than to worry that you might say something that will ruin your entire job future.
The bottom line is successful interns should act like they are full-time employees in order to truly feel integrated in the workplace.
You could be a happy intern after completing a big challenge
As our internships are winding down, I think it’s important to begin thinking about big projects to undertake. This project can be something visual and obvious, or more internal. Either way it should be something that will impress your boss and company.
That is the obvious reason behind undergoing a big task at the end of the internship, because it is one last chance to make a lasting impact. A final moment to ensure they understand the kind of work ethic you would bring if they hired you. If you want to work for the company you are with, timing this so it is finished right when you have a frank conversation with your boss about sticking around could do wonders.
And if even if you don’t want to stay with the company, one last project can give you a nice portfolio piece. Others will take notice of the fact that the company trusted you to take on something many would think beyond an intern. Plus, the references and recommendations will be much better, as they can talk about your drive and willingness to go beyond the mundane.
If your company doesn’t seem like the kind of place to allow you to take on something big by yourself, ask one of your coworkers if you can shadow and assist them in their project. This adds an element of work shadowing to our internships.
This is the route I have taken. I have been working as the second reporter alongside a veteran writer, helping him conduct interviews, research and write for an upcoming four-part series. This has been great because I have been able to pick up a lot of advice from him as we work. It also removes some of the pressure working alongside another person.
I am glad I have gotten to work on this story because it feels like my internship has culminated in something. Whether or not it turns into a job.
Everybody, we’re almost done…
It’s funny to see how far we have come since high school. One thing I have realized that has changed the most about me is my priorities and values.
A year ago I probably would have signed any offer I received in a heartbeat. It can be very difficult to say no to somebody offering to pay you money.
Something I find crucial that I have taken away from this course is the importance of culture. The environment of your job will affect your success and happiness.
Alexandra Levit discusses the importance of a corporate persona in, They Don’t Teach Corporate in College. While I agree in the importance of being professional in the workplace, it’s also important to find a place that allows you to be yourself and fits your personality. Finding an environment that you enjoy being at will increase your motivation.
We can learn a few lessons from the classic film, Office Space. Peter’s “case of the Monday’s” turned into a hatred of his work life and a lack of motivation outside of work. He hated the people he worked near, being locked in a cubicle, and hearing from eight different bosses.
Unfortunately, we probably won’t be able to move up the corporate chain by ditching work to fish, but you get the point.
Find a job where you feel like you can fit in and contribute. Find a place that feels like somewhere you can stay a while. If it doesn’t end up being what you wanted it isn’t the end of the world, we’re still young!
One of comedian Kevin Hart’s funniest lines is advice his uncle, a real tough guy, gave him on his elocution.
“Say it with your chest!“
But the final bit of advice I want to give is an observation I’ve noticed in my editor in my time as an intern. That is, saying something with a smile and enthusiasm.
It’s a little gushy and mushy, but I swear every time he opens his mouth to say something – anything – it’s with utmost joy. I enjoy hearing his voice, which is totally bizarre because he’s my boss. I’m supposed to cringe, am I not?
That said, at our weekly meetings and in the newsroom, he sprays positive vibes like an apache helicopter driven by a pissed off teenager in GTA III. It’s relentless. But with it, he brings pride to the work we collectively do daily. He takes time to thank and appreciate others for their efforts, especially in an industry where gratitude is few and far between.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if your going to do something, commit your life to a profession, try doing that with a smile. Try enjoying it wholeheartedly. It makes for a better environment, which I hear can be financially beneficial. And it makes a damn good lesson to others around you, or at least an excuse to binge watch Kevin Hart, which is a worthy effect in itself.