Finding My Place in the Office

This job is unlike any that I have worked before.  I have worked several places.  I began by working as a lifeguard where the job description was pretty straightforward.  I had to go through an extensive training program to be certified as a lifeguard which prepared me for any emergency circumstances and besides that the daily operations of both of the pools where I worked were fairly simple.  Ultimately there was almost no ambiguity in my job to this point. I then worked as a bagger/cashier at a grocery store. This job had a little more ambiguity because I had to perform customer service tasks and deal with unique situations on a daily basis, however, there was little variation between cases, and it was not difficult to overcome these challenges. I currently work with the equipment department for the University’s athletics teams.  This job primarily entails inventory management and, therefore, very little ambiguity or problem solving.  All of this means that my internship is very unique compared to my previous work experience.

This internship is my first true full-time job and my first experience doing work in my field (marketing).  This means that it is unlike anything that I have done before.  This combined with the fact that it is in a foreign country means that there is a lot of ambiguity in my job.  The first sign of ambiguity was the hours that I was supposed to work.  I was told that I should arrive by 9 AM, however, I could arrive later I would just be obligated to work 8 hours before leaving for the day.  I had expected much more rigid hours but what I found was something a little more flexible. On the other side of this same issue, no one tells me when to leave and I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission before I do.  I could leave 30 minutes early or 30 minutes late and, while it may not reflect well on my character or work ethic, no one would stop me.

The next major aspect of ambiguity comes in instructions for assignments.  The projects I am assigned to do not have instructions or syllabi, they do not have rubrics or anything to base them off of.  My manager will simply ask me to complete a task and it is up to me to figure out how to do it and do it to the best of my ability. While I did have some on the job training/shadowing and I have completed several training modules, the training wheels have come off and my supervisor and coworkers expect me to get my work done in a sufficient capacity.  This level of ambiguity is amplified by the language barrier.  Where a supervisor may be inclined to give me detailed instructions on how to complete a task my supervisor for my internship is limited by her vocabulary and ability to speak English. Luckily, my supervisor speaks English well, however, when she assigns me to projects with my coworkers, who do not share her English-speaking abilities, I find myself encountering this to a fuller extent.

To overcome these barriers, I have adopted a few principles. The first of which is that I work 8 hours and 15 minutes every day.  Rather than leave immediately after 8 hours of work or even a little early I stay late to make sure I get all of my work done and I offer to help on any outstanding projects.  This is usually very easy because, since I take a 30-minute lunch as opposed to an hour, I am able to leave at least 30 minutes before most of my coworkers. The next principle I adopted is having my work checked when possible.  If I am unsure of whether or not I am doing something right or if I am doing it to the best that it can be done, I will ask either my supervisor or a coworker to take a look at it before I get too far ahead. Luckily, I have not gotten ahead of myself or messed something up to the point where I have had to redo a significant amount of work, however, if I did not use this practice, I believe it would happen one day down the road.

Ultimately, all of this has helped my communication and creative problem-solving skills. I am having to communicate within a professional organization while communicating across the language barrier which is giving me a great opportunity to develop my communication skills. I am also developing my creative problem-solving skills because I am completing tasks with little or indirect information and I and completing marketing projects to help satisfy clients marketing needs.