Hello to all my 15 readers! (Really, I counted.)
I’ve just finished my 12-week internship with XinMSN and it has been a blast! Shoutout to Tarandip from Fashstash (she won Asia Fashion Exchange’s blogging contest last year) for connecting me to the team. I had my fears about internship. The snobbish bosses, the bitchy office culture, the dog-eat-dog world of journalists fighting for the scoop – that sort of thing. But when I met the lifestyle editor for the interview, she was really calm and cheery. XinMSN is in its first year running and I wanted to be part of a ‘start-up’ culture: one that had the space to be experimental and fun. I was informed that I would be straddling entertainment & lifestyle desks and doing a bit of video editing (which I didn’t get to do during the actual internship). She asked if I was comfortable with that. I said yes, but what I actually wanted to say was this: “If you ask me to get a quote from a mute person, I would learn sign language then get a solid quote from him in sign. Comfortable, I sure am.”
If you’re a future intern and you don’t quite know what to do once you get your foot in the door (I’m assuming you, smarty-pants, sealed the deal already), here are 5 things you could benefit from knowing about your first step into the big, bad “adult world”:
1) Smart-alecks and egos are not invited.
Get yourself in check: you are at the bottom of the totem pole. If you think you’re some hotshot who landed your dream internship, stop bragging and start working. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be happy, but don’t walk into the office like you’re the CEO and boast about your experience prior to getting your internship deal. Arrogance is a trait best served sparingly: if you can only afford to brandish your status and influence. You have none. Go in, quit whining about what you don’t want to do and just do it. Do the best you can do at what you do, and your bosses will see that you’re doing good. Take the grumbling (if any) outside the office: your colleagues don’t need to hear it. That being said, you have to be your own trumpet, so do note everything you’ve done in a neat list because you never know when someone’s going to check in on you.
Also, you don’t know everything. Even if you vehemently disagree, disagree diplomatically and discuss: your boss will appreciate an alternative viewpoint. If you do know something your boss/colleague doesn’t, bring attention to it and suggest what to do about it. Coming across as a know-it-all is irritating unless you have the solutions and applications for all the stuff you think you know about. It’s okay to say “Hey, I actually think this way might be better” because productivity is only going to benefit everyone. Just don’t shove it in their faces.
2) Take the initiative.
If you have time to watch a movie on your laptop at work, then you have too much free time. Observe your environment, note the day-to-day and week-to-week tasks, spot areas where someone could really use an extra hand and then go and help. Oftentimes, your colleagues will not ask you to help out with something because they’ve got it covered, but if they’re on the brink of struggling with it or they could transfer that work to someone else, take the work and ease their load. You’ll be lucky if you get to be a visible part of the organisation (and I have been really, really lucky), but there’s a greater payoff with being an unsung hero. The momentary fame with being in front isn’t nearly as rewarding as the satisfaction with being an instrumental part of keeping things together. The public and industry is fickle-minded: they will forget you very quick. It’s about those relationships in office that will last. Be brave to ask for what you want to do or can contribute towards, and you will be a key part of the team.
3) Be visible.
If you’re a wallflower, you can forget about making it big. But take it one step too far, and people will just want you to back off. You don’t have to be the first in and the last out: most times, no one really cares because a lot of people know that is a trick for interns to score brownie points. Let your personality show: be jovial during breaks, be critical during discussions, be steadfast in deadlines, be furious in hustling. If all you do is sit in your cubicle and wait for time to pass, don’t come crying to your lecturer’s door if you get a bad grade. Be noticed by people who aren’t in your department and let the office know who you are and what you can do. Socialise and put yourself out there because you are your brand and your loudhailer. Even if you’re liaising with someone outside the company, make sure they remember you. If you want to make a name for yourself in the industry, it’s very important to get out there early and know as many people as possible. You never know who’s going to get you your dream job or seal that next big deal you have in your hands!
4) Expect the unexpected… and roll with it!
Go in with an open mind, and keep that because a lot of things are going to throw you off your comfort zone. During my internship, I was tasked to write a football story on Mediacorp’s new football reality show, First XI. It completely threw me offguard, because if you know me pretty well, football is not my strong suit in playing & reporting. (Which is highly ironic for a Malay boy, but let’s put that aside.) Luckily, I had previous sport reporting experience being in the news service for the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. (Sorry if I’m tooting my own horn!) That helped me a bit in framing this story, but you may not be as lucky if you’re given an assignment that you have zero knowledge or experience in. My best bet would be to go with it, ask around for tips/advice and do it the best you can. I’m quite a perfectionist, so I do tend to bash myself up once in a while about how I could have done better. We always do that, but it’s about being content with what you have done given what you know.
At the end of the day, you want to do something fun and worthwhile. Don’t sulk or take yourself too seriously if that means you’re not going to enjoy your 8-hour days in the office. Cheer up. Greet everyone like you mean it, not just as a pleasantry. Take each assignment positively and cherish the process. Apologise for your mistakes and laugh at them in hindsight. Go for coffee breaks or gossip sessions and talk about things unrelated to work. Heck, even head out to lunch with your boss and enjoy each other’s company! (I did that on my first day and I really enjoyed my lunchtime.) Most importantly, know that you’re only going to be around for a short period of time, so enjoy each moment while you can. Besides, a lil’ cheer always livens up the 9-to-5 office cycle. Quit furrowing your eyebrows and you’ll realise that you’ll really begin to enjoy your internship a lot more.
Even though I got a good grade from internship, I’ve realised that the greater payoff lies in actually completing your stint with earnest and dedication. A good company culture will aid your time there, and all of this will culminate in you learning much more than what the grade dictates you’ve learnt. The grade is important, but the experience is more worthwhile. All the best, and don’t waste your time vegetating in the office! Do your best and rest assured, satisfaction will come.
(P.S. If I sound terribly angry, I’m sorry. I just watched a Joan Rivers comedy sketch.)