Don’t be Tempted by the Candy Drawer (and other things I learned at my summer internship)
At this point in my academic career, I like to think of myself as an internship veteran. I have just finished my second college internship since starting at Vanderbilt, and with this vast experience, I have acquired knowledge I want to share with POSTERITY. Halfway through May, after getting several snow-cone runs and amusement park trips out of my system, I started as an intern in the Talent Development department at a small IT consulting company in uptown Dallas called Pariveda Solutions. Once the first-day festivities of setting up my laptop, meeting lots of new faces, and admiring my “Welcome Samantha” banner on my bulletin board, I buckled down to clean up spreadsheets, make Visio charts, and learn the following things:
Feedback is your friend: Naturally, as a part of a team whose main focus is developing the careers of Pariveda employees, feedback is pretty key. As someone who sees herself as relatively independent and focused on the “big picture”, asking for feedback was a bit of a struggle at first. I like to get all of the details and instruction on an assignment up front and then deliver to the best of my ability, getting it right the first time. After all, that’s sort of how it works in college, where I might receive an assignment in my Marketing class and do all of the work before I receive a grade. In the “real world”, though (oh my, I sound old), the people working with you are able to observe you and give you constructive criticisms and praises along the way, to ensure that your final product is right. Why wouldn’t you want to embrace that? It was hard at first to hear that sometimes I rush through my work and should focus on double checking it, but I was able to take that nugget of truth and apply it in the following weeks. And just look at the superstar intern I turned into!
I might need to work on humility.
Commutes aren’t as bad as adults crack them up to be: Pariveda is located in the lovely area of Dallas called Uptown, which I love especially because of the abundance of delicious local places to eat. This is quite important to a taco-lover like myself (I intend to write a blog called “Let’s Talk-o About Tacos” in the future). Unfortunately, this lovely neighborhood is an hour away from my house, so that meant a rough commute to work each morning, starting at 7:30 in the morning. Sitting in Dallas traffic is not a fun time, my friends. Once I embraced the fact that my mini-van and I would be spending lots of time together this summer, I actually started to enjoy my commute a bit. That 2 hour round trip in the car each day gave me time to think, attempt to listen to an audio book (I gave up; I have a short attention span), and memorize the words to every single pop song on the radio. Your commute doesn’t have to be like the bleak one in Office Space; you too can be a commute champion!
Professionalism isn’t overrated: I used to have one black skirt and polka dot top that I wore to every single interview, because that was the only “business casual” outfit I owned. What can I say; I’m a tee-shirt and Chacos kind of girl. This summer, though, I had to buy a whole wardrobe of dresses, skirts, and dress pants to fit the dress code at Pariveda. I can also now navigate the world of Microsoft Outlook, conference calls, business lunches, and copy machines, too. These internships might make a young adult of me yet.
Don’t be tempted by the candy drawer: Someone will ALWAYS leave out extra doughnuts, bagels, or tres leches cake out in the break room, and it will call your name. This summer, I learned self control. Even if there is a bottomless candy drawer filled with Kit Kats and Reese’s, that does not mean you are obligated to constantly stuff said candy into your mouth. Pick me ups are a good thing, but they can be achieved through short walks around the office, chats with your cubicle-mates about the weekend, or watching TED talks. I never took work-life balance to the extent of sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair, but I did manage to curb my Diet Coke intake. I may have an unhealthy relationship with caffeine.
The people you work with are as important as the work itself: My team of 5 women at Pariveda was what really made my internship special and meaningful this summer. I always looked forward to exciting lunches with this group and the opportunity to share what exciting things I did the night before. I am currently working through a list of the top 50 Romantic Comedy movies of all time, and they always took great interest in recommending the next movie I should watch. I introduced the ladies to the video app called “Vine”, so that established me as the hip intern. We made a point to make a Vine video together at the park one lunch break as we ate from food trucks. It was moments like this that really made me love coming into work each day, knowing that my coworkers really cared about my career development but also just me as a person. I will definitely be keeping in touch.
The internship experience is what you make of it: Internships will really only be useful in the future if you work on making connections with people (hello, recommendations!), building your skills, and learning about your strengths. Pariveda had me take a Predictive Index test to gauge my dominance, extroversion, patience, and formality under stress before I even stepped into the office. Analyzing the results from this test helped me put words to my communication style and helped me communicate more effectively with people with different PI patterns on my team. Adapting to the Pariveda writing style taught me patience in attending to detail, and I learned to love making daily task lists by following the example of others on my team. Overall, I think interning is crucial for undergrads, especially if they are unsure about their career direction. Interning gave me a small taste of the working world, and I plan on taking this fresh perspective back to Vandy and applying it to the things I learn in class. Having intern experience will make the transition from college to career as smooth as possible. I like that.