Working Amongst The Big Guys: My Internship Experience and What I Learnt From It (So Far)
I've clocked one week of office hours in a corporate company. Not bad for someone who had zero experience working for a corporate company, much less a multi-national one. Even as work in my first week was slow and I wasn't assigned many tasks yet, I've begun to gain a better understanding, not only of my company, but also of its environment, the people I work with, and where I come in in this broad picture.
To begin, I am an intern at a huge company. My company has many offices around the world, and it hires thousands of employees worldwide. I'm based in the Singapore office of this company, and deal specifically with APAC matters.
Being a complete greenhorn, I was terrified when I stepped into the office and began my internship stint. I had no idea how things worked in the office, what the culture was, and what the norms and practices were. I only had a vague idea of what my job scope was. So I went in practically clueless.
I felt very stupid at the start. I think I still do, but I hope to believe it's getting better. I felt useless, and as my brother said, was hit by a strong wave of Imposter's Syndrome (a kind of syndrome where one does not feel like one belongs or deserves one's job/position etc). Because I believed that I was new and an intern and was not of 'equal' standing as the other employees, I thought that I 'knew' less and could not contribute valuably to the team.
Into the first week, I made several mistakes in the tasks I was assigned. I felt very bad about myself. Luckily, my supervisor was good and patient enough to give me feedback, and to let me know areas I can improve on. I was extremely appreciative towards her, yet I couldn't help but notice the embarrassment I felt ('I caused her more trouble and to waste more time explaining things to me', 'I am a burden'). These thoughts came to mind.
Troubled, I consulted my friends and brother, people who have already entered the working world. I asked them what it was like when they started working, what difficulties they faced and how they moved past them.
There were many words of advice I will hold close to my heart and will constantly remind myself.
1. Keep asking questions, keep learning.
Being new on the job, it's okay to not know things. This ignorance is a blessing in fact, because it just shows us how much room there is for improvement. It gives us direction and serves as a form of encouragement. The key is to take full advantage of the first few weeks at work to ask as many questions as possible and to learn as much as we can. This learning goes a long way in becoming a valuable member in the team and making significant contributions to drive the team forward. Not only does it benefit the company, learning how to handle things in the corporate world gears us up for our future jobs in terms of soft skills e.g. in people-to-people communication or how we pitch our ideas.
Besides, there is no need to feel embarrassed and bad to ask your supervisor questions. They are here to help you succeed. Because when you succeed, they succeed too.
2. Do not be afraid to make mistakes.
Being afraid of making mistakes just prevents you from trying, and from realizing your full potential. Keep trying your best. It's okay to make mistakes. People in the corporate world move on from mistakes very fast anyway. If you keep harping on what you did wrongly, you're just holding yourself back from succeeding the next time round.
3. Be 100% attentive.
Always be on top of your game and understand and internalize the things you are learning. If you can't comprehend certain things, ask. Learn smart and learn actively.
4. Carve out your own opportunities
There are minimum expectations and requirements of an intern. But if you just sit on your laurels and only complete the things you are given, you're limiting yourself from learning much more. If you're interested in a project that is not under your purview, ask your supervisor if you can have a hand in it. Who knows, his/her answer may surprise you, and soon enough you'll find yourself a new interest (perhaps something you can consider engaging with in your future job).
5. Always come prepared.
No one is going to wait for you to fumble through your notes (for instance) before you present your ideas. Always prepare yourself before a meeting with your supervisor or boss. If you have queries, make sure you pen them down before meeting your supervisor/or at least be clear on what you want to ask.
6. Be professional.
This one was a little hard for me at the start because I felt like a complete noob and thus felt silly and stupid. Like I was a small kid among the big guys. But carrying yourself professionally goes a long way in earning respect from people you work with.
There are indeed countless other things one needs to take note of in order to succeed in one's job/internship. But the most important of all is to really be confident of who you are, to know and believe that you have earned the position you're currently in. If you think about it, there is a reason why companies hire interns. They hire interns because they need help with certain things. So that's where you and I come in. We're there to help and contribute valuably, hence we are valuable and needed in the team. So we have to lay down those worries and do our work properly. We just have to keep striving. As long as we have the curiosity and drive to learn, we'll be fine.
On a side note, Week 2 starts tomorrow! I'm pumped up for the week and am extremely excited on what lies ahead for me. :) Week 2, let's go!