Written by YellowDog Intern, Tarne Fidler.
As my sales and marketing internship at YellowDog draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on my experience as an intern here. Undeniably, I’ve grown my knowledge and expanded my skill set. I’ve broadened my perspective. I’ve refined my time management. But, ticking boxes isn’t really enough. When considering how to best utilise my experience, and jot down what advice I would give to a new intern, I’ve found myself having a bit of an internal battle over exactly what it is I have learnt.
I call this: the internship paradox.
By this, I mean that there are many contradictory and competing truths about being an intern. One piece of advice may be accurate, but an opposing piece of advice is also spot-on. Makes no sense, right? So I’ve put together my own (and unfortunately for you – pretty perplexing) rule book on the key tips to bear in mind.
Get to know the company you will be working for and the industry you’ll be in. Having a solid understanding of the company aims, its structure, and the roles of your co-workers will quickly allow you to feel more comfortable and know where to go for help. Getting to grips with the industry you’re in will help to inform every task set, and give you a useful context within which to make decisions.
That being said, the most I learnt at YellowDog wasn’t from the research I did, or even the training sessions I had. It was just soaking up information: learning without realising. You will learn on the job; jargon and specific lingo can be intimidating, but unfamiliar phrases quickly become clear. It may be useful to keep a note of things you’ve learnt, and achieved, to look back over when you get stuck, or when it comes to tailoring your internship for your CV and future job applications.
There’s so much information available online to guide you through a whole host of situations where you might get stuck (I remember early on in my internship, googling: ‘What is rendering?’, but shhh, don’t tell anyone). There’s a YouTube tutorial for virtually everything, which comes in handy when using tools you may not be well versed in – even if it’s just Mailchimp, or excel.
But, it’s so important to remember that whilst you’re not just an intern (you’re a valuable asset to your team), you are just an intern, and you won’t be expected to know everything, or even in some cases, anything (again, I clearly remember simply stating that I couldn’t really work out what YellowDog did in my interview – but it’s ok, I didn’t need to!) You might think you’re asking a really stupid, basic question to discover that that the person you’re asking doesn’t actually know the answer either.
It’s pretty bad practice to present sloppy work with mistakes and always useful to check things over, so take tasks slowly and carefully to ensure you can do your best work. But it is also paramount to simply, just, get things done. It sounds silly, but, some things can just be good, not fantastic. I had many research tasks where sometimes it was really tricky to find the right information. But I quickly learnt that it’s better to just accept I couldn’t than spend too long antagonising over something that wasn’t really that important in a wider sense.
I found the adjustment to professional tasks a bit stressful. Unlike coursework and academic projects where you’re working in a time-frame of weeks and months, in a professional environment, deadlines tend to be more imminent. Personally, I’m a perfectionist when it comes to completing tasks, and I can’t stand to leave tasks unfinished (in short, I’m my own worst nightmare). Interning at YellowDog has taught me that, of course, it’s incredibly important to pay attention to detail, but it is also important just to get something done.
It’s important to be a professional. But, don’t let that get in the way of being friendly, and being yourself. The second you step foot in the office doesn’t mean you should transform into a colourless robot! The best way to make the most out of your internship, and feel comfortable, is to get on well with the people you’re working with. Have a friendly and open attitude throughout, and you’ll probably find that so do all of your colleagues.
Far from being illogically absurd, on reflection, I suppose I would argue the key to making internships work is simply letting these contradictory rules sit in tension with one another. At the end of the day, there aren’t really any hard and fast rules for anything; it’s your responsibility to ensure that you’re working hard, getting good results, and making the most of your time as an intern. How exactly you go about this: whether it’s from google searches, asking questions, getting things wrong, winging it or spending hours meticulously planning . . . it doesn’t matter. Just trust your own judgement.
The irony is, that’s the last contradictory guideline: this blog post versus your own judgement.
You’ll love Tarne’s blog on internship time management
Beth’s 3 tips to get the most from your internship
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