As a young graduate, an internship is going to shape the starting milestones of your professional journey. It is your first opportunity to immerse yourself in the ‘real world’ to emerge having learned something substantial.
With no real experience of an office environment, to catch onto the buzz around you can be overwhelming. It is no longer familiar or straightforward like college assignments.
There is a company to make sense of, a team to engage with, a supervisor to report to, and a culture to fit into. The scope of discovery in all of this novelty can feel cacophonous.
Most mistakenly think of internships as grunt work just to check off a CV requirement. But an intern’s role is important. It gives you a playground, a team, and a ball to see whether you’re a player with skill and sportsmanship spirit.
How do we learn the rules and live the game when we barely know what the benchmarks are?
It helps to start by trusting that interns are indispensable to tasks that go on to build the foundation of any project. Be it a primary data set or a visual stock of images, their input matters.
Their fresh perspective brings necessary enthusiasm and innovative thinking into a room. Their student status gives them a free license to explore, take initiative, ask questions. Or gainfully disrupt.
Yet, several interns feel disempowered in this role, and unclear on what to pick up and run with.
How do you confidently leap to translate your good intentions into a reasonable strategy for growth regardless of how much of a ‘fit’ the internship feels like?
Let’s just start by disabling your good intentions upfront: Your skills don’t matter, your attitude does.
Recognize that you are in a rather unique position here. You have been offered the freedom to give things a shot, and it’s more than okay if you miss—which is kind of amazing if you think about it.
You’re there to learn, to practice how to behave, present and contribute. And you’re only really expected to make an effort.
So, pick a task that makes sense and practice. Break the task down to smaller goals and hit them, challenging yourself on speed and your supervisor’s satisfaction.
The fact that you can’t be expected to know the right answer has value. There are strategic advantages to having the right questions instead.
Your dazzle moment can only ever happen if you’re prepared to tolerate failing productively. So what does that look like in action?
The first thing you have to do is trust yourself to recover from any setback. Do that and you’re already a valuable asset.
All the pieces in front of you are fresh, so it’s okay if a few of your structures fall. Gathering the pieces and working with them is more important than learning to build right now.
Your speed and stamina are your best friends. Every task or deliverable is a test of discretion and time-management, not perfection.
Overachieving means nothing in a space where benchmarks are unknown to you. So, trust your gut to guide you— if it makes sense to you, do it. What’s the worst that can happen?
Building resilience to failure is a valuable skill in times where rapid innovation and feedback loops describe what workspaces look like.
Being part of that change means learning how best to adapt to the environment, and respond by adjusting behaviors incrementally but continually. Foster a mindset that frames ‘opportunities to fail ’ as ‘moments to self-organize and experiment’.
And before you know it, you will have been trained to operate as an integral cog, making lives easier with a smile by being reliable, and most importantly, eager to ‘give things a shot’.
And that’s the whole point of it all. That’s the validation to look for—if at all.
What to answer by the end of it all is: ‘How many teachers did I locate and empower?’
Shivani Govind is a branding professional who has been exploring people and cultures for almost a decade. She likes to gather her myriad adventures into pocket pieces of art, musings, and learnings to share with all who share her wonder and curiosities.
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