My 3 Main Learnings After Interning In Over 7 Companies As A Student
With Tips You Should Also Implement As An Intern To Make The Most Out Of It
While we were looking at a new pandemic evolving while sitting at home, experiencing a time we had never experienced before, I decided to continue the Udemy course I had purchased a long time ago on web development. I hadn’t made much progress in the course the year before that, thanks to my hectic college and travel schedules. Anyways, the course took me a few weeks to complete, post which I went out looking for an internship or freelancing opportunity almost immediately.
My goal was clear: earn enough in the next few months to be able to buy myself whatever cool things I wanted to buy. Little did I know I was entering a year of work where I won’t get paid a single penny, but would have to spend hours solving problems for others. At that time, the only benefit of that work I could see was that it would lead to my initial goal in the long run. Looking back, however, I see myself having learned a lot, and being a changed personality because of what I learnt in those and the following work experiences. Some of those I intend to share here for people who might find themselves interested in this.
Before we start though, I should clarify that none of these points are going to be in any way related to web development or anything else I did in any of those internships. The technical learning aspects of an internship are rarely a surprise. I mean you would expect to learn web development if you’re working for a company that expects you to develop on the web, wouldn’t you? That out of the way, let’s start.
Never Dismiss An Idea
I know. Sounds cliché. But there’s a reason this has been said so many times: It’s true. An obvious argument that could pop up here is you don’t have the power to dismiss ideas as an intern anyway. Does this still apply? Yes, it does. I agree, as an intern, you mostly won’t be dismissing ideas given by other people out in the open, but there’s always a tendency to think :
Ah that is stupid, it won’t work because yada yada yada
Does that thinking affect the company you’re working for? Nope. However, does it make you feel stupid yourself when a lot of the times the idea ends up working later? From experience, yes.
The reason behind this is simple, whatever yada yada yada you thought the reason for failure would be, that’s most probably correct. However, that’s just the approach you were able to think of. And I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely not a 200IQ genius who could have considered every single method of doing something before making a judgment. It is, without exceptions, always better to express the same point as a question (the answer to which you’re actually interested in). Something like this goes a huge way:
In the approach you just mentioned, I can’t think of how we may move past the problem yada yada yada. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
How is this better? If you were in fact correct, you get more than just the satisfaction now: you get the recognition. If you were (so called) ‘wrong’, however, you at least don’t feel stupid anymore. In addition, you are now seen as someone with an opinion who knows how to work in a team. That’s still appreciated. Brownie points. Oh and also, it does increase your learning by at least 5 times.
I can see another obvious question popping up here, do I not seem stupid to them if I’m wrong? Short answer: No. Let’s explore the same in the next section.
Always Ask Questions
Almost everyone is afraid of asking questions when starting off as an intern in a new company. The simple reasoning behind this that most of them would give is they don’t want to seem like someone who doesn’t know stuff. Somehow, that is supposed to show that they are not smart.
I don’t blame them, however, having been the same way in my first internship. The turning point for this in my experience came during a presentation I was supposed to give to the team explaining a feature I had worked on. I prepared my complete work, went there, spoke for 5 minutes, and then started waiting for questions. Now considering the only presentation experience I had was in high school, and the fact that I thought asking questions is not appreciated, I didn’t expect a lot of them to come up. Especially because everyone on the team was senior to me, so why would they have to ask me something, right? Not at all.
I was bombarded with questions, having to answer around 15 of them. The even more surprising thing was that most of those questions came from the team lead himself. That is when I realized, no one thought a person was dumb for asking a question. Instead, they thought the person was smart enough to have been able to think in that direction, which could have prevented a possible error(even if it didn’t in that scenario). In addition, if the senior-most member of the team could accept not knowing something and still be seen with equal respect by everyone else, why could I, the junior-most member not do the same?
This same trend persists everywhere. When I interned at Oracle this summer, the number of questions asked by the director of the project during the presentations was probably higher than the questions asked by everyone else on the team combined.
Developing the habit of asking questions helped me form an image of someone who pays attention and expresses interest in anything that’s going on, and also helped me learn so much more than I would’ve without it. Even if what I learned didn’t always help me immediately, it became something I knew, which I was able to apply to other internships later, and impress the people I was working with. The benefits you will get from this are more than what you can imagine at the moment, and I don’t even need to know what you’re imagining before saying this.
If You Want Something, Ask
This one is a little less philosophical than the last two. When you’re new to a professional environment, there’s a tendency to feel afraid when you’re asking your manager or HR to do something they might not want to do, but is beneficial to you. A salary negotiation would be a good example of the same. Or leaving the job without burning bridges. Of course, some of them are not that understanding, but it’s rarely your job to make them into good people. Specially as an intern, you’re not there in the company for long if you don’t want to be. So if you have been working for some time on the same stipend/salary and have valid reasons as to why it should go up, form a respectful email explaining that directly and send it.
The most surprising thing I noticed in all my internships was that most people are willing to give you what you want if you’re just confident enough to ask for it directly. Your confidence reflects the fact that you know your value, and that is something very few people are willing to fight. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to start fighting with everyone to get everything you want, but it does mean you should not hesitate to express what’s on your mind in a respectful manner while also listening to the other side for valid points.
That concludes my third biggest learning. I could have covered a lot more, but 3 seems like a good number for now. Another important thing I would like to mention before signing off is that most of these tips apply to your personal relations as well. The habits and thought processes I formed during my internship timings also helped me become more understanding and form more mature relations with the people I know.
With that, I’ve covered everything I wanted to say and would love to hear from you in case you have any thoughts regarding anything I said. Thanks!