Sink or Swim

For many of us, these internships are our first real experiences engaging in our respective industries — that means we’re doing things we’ve never done before in environments we’re unfamiliar with. I don’t know about you, but for me, those first couple of weeks were a real slap in the face. So, sink or swim?

Here are some things I’ve kept in mind to prevent sinking:

1. Communicate (duh)

During my second week on the job, I ran into an issue regarding workload. I had taken on too many projects, and as a result, I couldn’t get one in on time. I resolved the issue by accepting fault and being upfront about why it happened. In my department’s weekly meeting, I explained to my supervisor and colleagues that I was still learning how to manage my time and that I needed help prioritizing my workload. Everyone was very understanding and I haven’t run into any issues since.

Unknown2. Adapt

Being asked to do something you’ve never done before, like draft a pitch to a reporter, is daunting to say the least. I found myself in this situation a lot during the first two weeks. The main thing to keep in mind is not to panic – you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If you don’t know something, Google it, and then use your best judgement. Your supervisor would rather edit a rough pitch than hold your hand and walk you through writing it.

3. Over-achieve

Take your supervisor by surprise when you can. Today I sent my boss a status report regarding a project I’m currently working on – without being prompted. Don’t just do what you’re told; find ways to do more than you’re told.

I strongly believe that the way you respond to the initial struggle of a new job is what determines whether you will sink or swim. Personally, I’m starting to feel less like I’m frantically flapping around and more like I’m steadily treading water. In fact, this past week went rather swimmingly. Pretty soon, I’ll be ready to ditch the arm-floaties.

Metaphors, am I right?

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By: Jessica Landre

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3 Responses to Sink or Swim

  1. hannahosborn says:

    Great post Jessica! It’s amazing how in just a matter of weeks you can go from panicking every time you get asked to do something new to cruising along and even finding ways to go above and beyond!

  2. robbydavis23 says:

    These first five weeks have been crazy for me as well. I definitely feel as though no amount of school could have prepared me for this experience. Like you, I also had a tendency to take on too many tasks. I was afraid to tell someone that I couldn’t complete a task because of timing. This resulted in me also having to explain to my editor during a morning meeting that I was taking on too much of a workload. This experience taught me that it’s better to do a few assignments extremely well than doing numerous assignments mediocrely. Thanks for the post!

  3. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the pressure to get everything done on time. I really like your idea of how to handle things by referring to, “sink or swim.” Even though you were overwhelmed with all of your projects you chose to be upfront with your coworkers and instead of sinking under pressure, you swam out of the situation with a lesson learned. I can’t believe we are already five weeks done with our program! It feels like just yesterday we were starting out on the first day. Thanks for your post!

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