10 lessons from my first ever start-up internship
I started an internship last Monday and it is my first ever office job! I have done a variety of jobs over the years, but most of them served me well with an allowance during the school term. Primarily, my focus back then was on how much I could earn, and any other experience I gained along the way was a bonus to me.
This time, it’s different. I am embarking on the journey of collecting meaningful work experiences and then, curating these experiences for my portfolio. Here, meaningful holds two meanings: 1) Work that lies within the domain you would like to pursue for your future career and 2) Work that offers opportunities for personal development and fulfilment. I had not always thought about 1) simply because I was seeking out positions I could see myself in the long term. That led me to try jobs of different functions and industries.
Being in school, you gain more knowledge about how things should go but not how they actually go within organisations. Add that to the millennial’s ‘love what you do and do what you love’ approach to job seeking, it soon becomes a complex web of will I ever find what I am meant to do?
However, since I started my internship, I have been coping well with my worries. It especially helps that I have come to realise these things about working:
1. There will always be parts of the job you do not like, even if you love your job function.
I am lucky to have landed this role of digital marketing. It allows me to write, manage social media accounts and also communicate with other companies. Even so, there are parts of the job that I still would rather not do from time to time. For instance, data entry. I’m wondering, why this not already automated? 🙁
2. Interruptions are part of the flow.
You will be assigned work to do. But while you are working on that, you will be asked to pause your progress to work on something more urgent. You need to be able to manage it all while ensuring that you still complete the tasks assigned to you. And, accept the work graciously (the last thing you would want to do is to give a face). It’s all part of the experience!
3. It is draining, albeit fulfilling.
The first day I got off work, I immediately shut my phone and went for a walk. I had been looking at the screen the whole time, apart from the lunch break and it gave me a mild headache. Take your digital detox as needed.
4. The workplace is not always going to be conducive.
The best time is arriving early when only a few other colleagues have arrived. This helped me plan my day’s work and schedule the most difficult ones to clear first because I have the most energy in the morning. Also, there will be pockets of silence in between the day. Catch that moment so you can use it for when you need more focus.
5. Productivity drops after lunch hour so you need to know how to get it back.
Food coma comes on and suddenly you feel sluggish. I understand how hard it is to fight the sleepy feeling off especially when your eyelids threaten to close. But, here’s what I did:
- Finish lunch earlier and take a power nap before the start of work
- If you can’t afford a nap, check and see if you could play upbeat music while you work.
- Take a quick break by walking to the toilet/pantry.
6. Check your sitting posture! Change your posture every once in a while.
Because you don’t want to get backaches at the end of the day. You also do not want cramps while at work!
7. You are bound to feel lonely at the start.
Don’t beat yourself up if you were silent during lunch time or if you only replied but did not start a conversation. It takes time and you are in a new environment! Moreover, there isnt always the figure around who can easily bridge the incoming employees with the current employees. But, try to speak more when you are ready.
8. Do not be shy to ask. In fact, the more you ask, the easier your work might become!
Asking is a great way to check if you are on the right track. Ask at the start when work is assigned or ask along the way when you have ideas to see if it is approved. Don’t wait until you are done to seek feedback because you may run the risk of having to redo the whole piece of work!
Ask about the company’s culture or practices as well. It helps you to understand where you fit in.
9. Listen actively and always take notes.
You are not going to remember most of what your supervisor has assigned to you, especially the details of what it should look like. So, always make sure to listen and write it down. That means you will always want to have stationery and a notebook or paper with you!
10. Be comfortable with not knowing and have a positive learning attitude.
You will not be fully knowledgable of the job you are doing and you feel alright with that. The main thing is to bring an earnest attitude to learn. Challenges are what makes work interesting and helps you grow. Of course, aim to remember your newly acquired knowledge. While you may be excused for not knowing before, you probably would not be excused for not remembering what you have learnt.
Whether you are in your ideal job or not, I hope you have found some of these points helpful! I’ve tried to show a full picture of what my work experience has been so far which I was personally struggling to understand previously. Thank you for reading and feel free to share it with someone who is also starting work or internship. 🙂