5 Things I Learned as a Student-Intern & Why I No Longer Feel Ill-Prepared for the Professional Workplace
By Tim O'Dea
This guest post was written by our intern, Tim O'Dea. You can learn more about him on his LinkedIn profile.
Juggling a full-time undergraduate curriculum, a part-time job and an internship at one point seemed like (and often felt like) an impossible task. Having so much on your plate can make you wonder if you’re capable of handling a professional career. Here's what I've learned over the past five years of trying to make it all work:
1. No problem ever got solved by keeping quiet.
Ensuring you are in a positive work environment is essential. It’s important to be as communicative as possible with the people you work with. I’ve found that you often have to be the one to start the discussion. The more comfortable you are with your team, the more likely you are to develop new, collaborative ideas. Get talking!
2. You need to keep yourself updated.
A habit I’m glad I’ve gotten into this year is first checking my phone in the morning for news updates. I recommend keeping up with the news, even if it means checking your CNN app or Twitter discoveries while drinking your morning coffee. I believe the more up to date you are with current trends and talking points, the more informed you’ll be with your work. Being familiar with current events is not only a gateway to conversation starters, but...
3. You must keep a positive attitude.
We’re kidding ourselves if we think we wake up every day thinking, "I cannot wait to go to work today"! While we should believe every day is going to be a good day, the slightest inconvenience can alter our attitudes quickly—at least definitely for me. This is why when things seem too hectic and I feel like I have no power or control over a situation, I take three deep breaths and remind myself that no good can come from getting angry. The best work comes out of people who don’t let negative energy affect their mentality.
4. You can’t be afraid of change.
You know the saying, but for now we’ll say stuff happens. When you’re comfortable enough in a role, it doesn’t seem feasible to imagine yourself at another job. However, changes happen, and opportunities come up. When you’ve learned as much as you can from a job, there comes a time when you ask, how much more can I offer?
You should never be afraid of taking on a new challenge. I like to think of work experiences as a big suitcase: you go through your career picking up all the tools and insights you need to succeed, so that when you’re ready to head somewhere different, you pack up and go. And if you’ve already built strong relationships in your work environment, they’ll be sad to see you go, but more than happy to help you pack.
5. You can’t do it alone.
It may be cliché, but it's true: teamwork makes the dream work. Before entering my last semester of college, I considered myself to be an independent worker. After working in four collaborative capstone projects, I can tell you nothing is more untrue about me. I found that I thrive with group work. It can be stressful (like any job) but knowing you have a constant support system and colleagues that you can depend on is what makes a team great.
Work teams aren’t necessarily permanent (what job is?) but if you build strong enough of a dependence on each other, even when the work is complete and it’s time to start another chapter, you can always consider these people on your team.
Throughout my seven years of rowing experience, I’ve learned one truly valuable skill: teamwork. Whether that be in the boat or on land, I have found profound value in working together with my teammates. These skills are now invaluable to me, as I can apply them not only to my sport, but to school, work and everyday life.
LESSON 1: Get in Synch:
In rowing, one of the keys to success in the boat is being able to synchronize as a crew. Being capable of taking every stroke correctly and together is a vital part of any successful boat. Following one another and working as a unit is a great lesson for everyone, especially in the workplace. Being able to collaborate with others and work as a group is important in any business setting.
LESSON 2: Build Bonds:
Another form of teamwork that rowing has taught me is how to create close bonds with my fellow rowers, and how important those bonds can be when it comes to success. The better cohesion our boat has, the more we’re capable of success. Is raw strength important? Is determination important? Of course. However, without a connection with your teammates, there can be unwanted conflict that will only hold you back. The same is true in the workplace. While working on a project or a committee with your co-workers, it’s important that you get along with your teammates.
LESSON 3: Keep Passion Alive:
Although rowing has been a passion of mine throughout my seven years involved in the sport, there have been times when I asked, “Why do I do this? What draws me back in?” Practices are long, the work is hard, and tensions can be high. What makes all of this hardship worth it is remembering the moments that drew me into the sport in the first place. This lesson has certainly transfered into my everyday life. Work, school and day to day tasks can become mundane or frustrating, but looking inside myself and finding the passion that originally lit my internal fire helps me to stay motivated in everything I do.
LESSON 4: Friendships Grow Through Shared Adversity:
Physically working out everyday and racing next to the same people I call my friends has showed me that mutual adversity can create friendships that are stronger than the average connection. By working together through hard times, I have learned to motivate and support my friends more than any other experience I’ve ever had. The same is true in the workplace. Completing a shared project can bring you and your co-workers together, not only by building memories but also by creating a shared sense of accomplishment that will last way beyond the completion of one’s project.
Synchronization creates success on and off the water. Overall, rowing really has taught me many skills that I apply everyday in my world outside of athletics. I encourage anyone to try rowing and learn exactly what I’m talking about, as I truly feel that everyone can benefit from spending at least a little time rowing in a boat and learning how to sync up with those around you.
-Elliot Rieth, Go Scavenger Hunts Intern
Co-founder Jill Hinton Wolfe is a communicator, entrepreneur and Army veteran who is passionate about the outdoors and designing surprising and unique challenges for all sorts of clients, all over the world.