Just keep swimming

Week seven. Seven weeks and one day have passed since starting my internship for a city government.

During my seven weeks here I have grown professionally and personally. I have made leaps and bounds in my writing and communication skills.

I have had my share of set backs too. Currently, I am working on a customer service survey for one of the city departments. At least, it started out as a customer service survey: A simple 10-question survey that implemented the likert scale, close-ended, and open-ended questions. I even created a Gantt Chart for my co-intern and I to follow along until the project’s completion.

On Thursday, I received the critique for the survey my co-intern and I created. Not only did not a single original question of ours get used, but it also transformed into a monstrous 25 questions.

This was a blow to my self-esteem. The other intern and I had poured one weeks worth of work into the questions, which we thoughtfully chose. However, instead of sulking about the issue to my supervisors, I had a meeting with them to discuss the wording of the new questions, the lay out and how to shorten this new survey.

I realized that even when we are so proud of a piece of work that we dedicated lots of time and effort to, we do not always get the response we think it deserves. The total rejection of our survey taught me to keep focused and turn the rejection into a positive.

I understand that the department we are creating the survey for does not completely understand why the interns were assigned this task. They probably believe a professional surveyor or researcher could do a much better job. But, I have jumped at the chance to prove those doubters wrong.

By Friday, the new survey was edited down to 20 questions, reformatted and designed. I look forward to the responses we receive from the survey and the suggestions we can make to the city department.

I now turn to the inspirational words of Dory, “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming” and don’t lose sight of your goals.

Michelle Tagmyer

Dory, the character from Finding Nemo, is a Blue Tang Fish. Blue Tang Fish are known to be peaceful, but have a sharp spine that could inflict a painful wound. I like to think of myself as this fish, peaceful, yet I have a few tools that can catch others off guard (in more of an impressive way and non-harmful, of course.)

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16 Responses to Just keep swimming

  1. McKenzie Ingram says:

    Just keep swimming is literally the best advice you could have given! Ha! You’re right; if we keep working as hard as we can, and try to stay afloat, we’re surely going to be doing something right. Good job keeping your head screwed on straight, even through rejection. Accepting rejection is definitely not my strongest suit, so I’m happy to see you stride through it with such grace! Good work!

  2. shannonsloan says:

    Just keep swimming, I love that. It’s can be demoralizing when you put so much time and effort into a project only to have it dismissed or unused. I’m glad you stuck with it and learned from it. I’m sure you will prove the doubters wrong and next time they’ll think twice before doubting the intern. I hope you get some great results from your survey!

  3. rkaapu says:

    I think you handled this situation with a fantastic attitude. Rejection is no picnic and I am sure the frustration set in but you pulled it together and offered positivity and help revising the new survey. Way to tackle the problem.

  4. pdxsx says:

    Great insight, MIchelle. As someone who teaches a graduate research course here in Portland, I find that they deal with this all the time. People always want to rephrase or change your wording, especially within corporate and government environments.

  5. Allyson Will says:

    Keeping your head up in a time of disappointment is one of the hardest things to do. But, if you don’t keep your head up, you will fall again. Being able to keep going after failure is such a positive character trait. Although you may not have done your best work, your supervisors will recognize that you wanted to continue to learn and improve. In the long run your supervisors will know that you’re not a quitter and will want to give you more challenging assignments.

  6. shannonkluss says:

    Feeling disappointed is an indicator of the time and hard work you put in to your job. Had you turned in an unfinished or quickly put together survey, you wouldn’t be feeling this sense of rejection. Whether your supervisors decided to edit or even completely scratch a project you are assigned, you can home at the end of the day knowing that you worked hard on it and that you gave it your all.

  7. It’s unfortunate that your survey was originally disregarded but I think it’s great that you sought out insights from your supervisors about how to re-work the new survey. It’s frustrating to spend so much time on a project and have it dismissed but at least you handled it maturely and gained some knowledge from the experience. Ultimately the goal of the project is to get some good feedback about the city department, so as long as the survey achieves it’s goal, I would say you were successful.

  8. zolfaghari says:

    I’m curious to know why it sounds like your position isn’t being taken as serious as it should be. Do you have a good relationship with your supervisor? I definitely think you’re mindset of continuing to push to establish your work ethic is a great thing, but at the same time, make sure that your time isn’t going to waste. Your supervisor should always be willing to hear you out. I’m sure he or she will actually respect you more for coming to him/her about it, as long as it’s not in a desperate or unprofessional way.

    • michelletag says:

      I have a great relationship with my supervisors! My supervisors assigned this project to the other intern and I. However, we are conducting this survey for a different department (I’ll leave the specifics out), and we have been told before we went into the creation of the survey that we were facing some sharks (and some defensive ones at that). It has definitely been a huge learning experience working with departments outside our own, so I am so appreciative of that. If any of us end up working for a city government you do work for all departments, i.e. Development, Public Works, Emergency, and any commissions that the city has. I am learning about all types of communicators and personalities at work, which is an important lesson in itself! Thanks for looking out for me!

  9. codynewton says:

    I know how that feels. I worked on a little story, nothing as complicated sounding as what you did, but either way it got scrapped. At first I was bummed, but then I found out it had nothing to do with the quality of the work, it just ended up not being exactly the story my supervisor thought it would be when he sent me to do it. That happens all the time in this business. Things change quickly. I think it’s important to be able to adapt well, and try to keep up with boss’ changing demands. It sounds like you handled that situation really well, which might say even more for you than getting the questions through.

  10. Bree says:

    I hate when that happens, but sometimes you just have to move on. Don’t stress over the little things. In the beginning of my internship, I spent two weeks writing a piece for the magazine, which eventually was thrown out due to some privacy issues. I was bummed to say the least. I spent so much time interviewing, writing, and editing this piece. What a waste. But, like you said..just keep swimming.

  11. I commiserate. I’ve pitched several ideas at my boss here in S.F. and so far none of my ideas have gone much passed my two minute pitch. I don’t take it personally, even though it does get discouraging after a while. I keep trying to come up with new ideas and more pitches. Maybe one of them will actually make it to the print issue, maybe none of them will, but what matters is that I’m demonstrating that I care about the publication and I want to contribute to the editorial effort of making each issue great!

  12. wilsonemily says:

    This is an awesome way to respond do a little intern self-esteem blow: just keep swimming! It’s great that you addressed things face-to-face with your boss to learn how you could do the best possible job. I’m sure they appreciated your efforts and even though your work might have seemed like it went to waste at first, it seems like it was a great learning experience where your boss took note of your motivation to do the job right! Good luck on the next few weeks of your internship!


  13. agavette says:

    I think we’ve all had a moment like this–either in our internships here or for a school project. I think the best thing to do is to understand what it was about your survey that didn’t fit into what the department wanted. Why does certain wording work better in the new survey? Once you figure that out, then you can apply that knowledge to the next time–kind of like when you go to office hours after getting a poor grade on a paper: go to the professor, ask what they were looking for that you didn’t give, and ask how to improve the next time. That will show your dedication and tenacity in completing future projects, keeping in mind the satisfaction of your supervisors.

  14. asharonson says:

    Amazing post, Michelle! Don’t worry; we have all be going through ups and downs in our internships. It is all a learning process and I am sure most of us have had feedback that is more red than black. We just have to learn from it and continue moving forward. I guess that’s why they call us interns! Also, I love your quote from Dory 🙂

  15. Great attitude! I’m sure that was slightly intimidating venturing outside your department knowing you weren’t headed to the most welcoming of groups. It sounds like you and the other intern took your unofficial task of proving them wrong very seriously and, after a minor setback, made a great survey. Surveys are tough with every question having to be incredibly specific in order to get the perfect desired responses and I’m sure your questions were great jumping off points. Good Luck!
    Also, “Fish are friends, not food.” Not sure if there is an relevant interpretation of this quote for your post but who doesn’t love a good Nemo quote?

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