5 frank and honest things I learned during my 6 month work placement a million miles (or something similar) away from home.
1. Being alone can be soul crushing
Bukowski wrote “being alone never felt right. Sometimes it felt good, but it never felt right.” Chances are that if you are being sent off on a college sponsored internship, you’re going to be going it alone. Some choose to stay closer to home while others (like me) take the leap to the other side of the country. For those like me, it’s the first chance at living by yourself, at entering the adult world head on. Even with “settling in” programs, buddy systems and a room full of other interns, you will at times feel completely alienated at work; it’s somewhat expected in a new job especially miles and miles away from everyone you know and love. I spent 80% of my out of office time by myself. I’ve never felt less like myself in my life and the 6 months I spent living out on my own have probably been the 6 hardest months of my life. I developed my own coping mechanisms though; finding several local beaches that I could pass the time exploring (Banna, Fenit, Inch and Castlegregory are all beautiful) , solo-cinema trips and going to the gym more times a week then I will ever have the time for again.
2 Welcome to the bottom of the food chain
By entering the working world as an intern, you are intrinsically setting yourself up to be placed at the bottom of the food chain. As direct as it may sound sometimes you opinion won’t matter. Sometimes you’ll feel like you don’t matter. Keep remembering that you do. Everyone had their start somewhere and the majority of the higher-ups you will encounter on internship will have started in very similar roles as yourself. Don’t be disheartened if your ideas aren’t being used, if you feel as though you are merely grafting or if you are feeling as though you aren’t making a contribution because 95% of the time when you put the effort in, you are making a difference. The experiences you gain on internship are setting you up for bigger and brighter things; keep trying.
3. You will need your friends more than ever before
Again I turn to Bukowski for a relatable quote “‘If you want to know who your friends are, get yourself a jail sentence” Substitute “internship” here and we have it covered. I have never valued my friends as much as I have this year. I am so very lucky to have the support of a group of beautiful, talented, smart, compassionate, loving and hilarious individuals who have been my main support network when I’ve been away (even if we are scattered across the country and mainland Europe) These people have kept me from leaving Kerry in the dead of night, talked me down from panic attacks, provided me with inspiration, support and compassion and are always there to talk when I need someone by my side. For putting up with me, they all deserve a million awards but I am so very grateful for their ever know presence. Surround yourself with great people who will stick by you no matter what.
4. There will be periods of not knowing/confusion/sheer boredom
Reading back on past blogs, I seem to mention being bored a lot….. I guess I’m just high octave. Setting out on internship is a journey into the unknown in itself. Sometimes this will be the employee’s first experience of hiring an intern. Sometimes it will be a new discipline or a new projects and they just won’t know what to do with you for a while. Help them out. Display what you can offer. Show what you are good at. Flash your skills and prove your worth. Sometimes there will just be absolutely nothing to do; you’ve asked and asked for more tasks and you’ve exhausted every avenue but there’s simply nothing. Pass these times productively. See can you get ahead with some research. Read. Do some extracurricular upskilling. Keep yourself busy. (For more ideas, see my blog on being bored here)
5. You will learn the most from those you least expect
Some of the greatest lessons I learned on internship came from people I didn’t work closely with. I sat in an office with accountants and definitely picked up some of the jargon and the dos and don’t of the financial world. I later worked in a HR office where I gained a huge insight into employee relations, employability and the little things that HR do everyday to aid the working environment as a whole. I asked questions. I offered my help in compiling research and even got a bit of interior design thrown in. Some of the most interesting tasks I’ve been involved with during my internship have definitely come from branching out of my “marketing/communications” zone.