I’ve worked my internship for a whole week, and what an eye-opening experience it has been! Everyone has been so welcoming. Even though it is a small company, and most of my coworkers have been working together for a long time, it has been a privilege to join their company and contribute where I can. For the most part, I’ve been copying and pasting emails, forwarding responses, and researching businesses to onboard for the new online gift card website and existing Flogas and Vodafone programs. However, today was my first day working the phones, calling people listed in a spreadsheet who had won one-hundred-euro gift cards to a grocery store chain. Many of them were so delighted after hearing the news that I could not help but smile at their reactions. It was nice to be part of one of the highlights of a customer’s day, an aspect of my food service jobs I missed dearly.
Despite several high points of this internship, there have been a few experiences that have tested me and my skills. One major one is learning the overall office culture. I am used to collaborative spaces like restaurants where most of the work just “appears.” A party sits in my section, I greet them, take their drink order, put it in the machine, prepare the non-alcoholic drinks, wait for the bartenders, serve the drinks, answer questions, take their food order, enter the items, wait, serve the dishes, and so on. The next job can only be done after the former is complete, so it’s easy to understand the chronology of what I must do and when. The fluidity is comforting to me. Also, people are constantly asking for and offering help to those who have a busier night, and the waitstaff is always talking amongst each other.
At my internship, a lot of the work is more independent, self-assigned, and up to my own personal judgment as to what my priorities should be. I have calls that my coworkers tell me to make every day, and I must send follow-up or “chase” emails two days after the initial date of contact. Other than those variable assignments, there is a looming set of small but long-term tasks that do not have a technical deadline, but progress must be made each week. For this reason, I try to get an understanding of the quantity of businesses to reach out to so I can stay on track and meet expectations. I also use what I am going to call the “below the line” method I learned from a Georgetown University seminar on time management, which is when you set up your day based on the importance and urgency of your tasks. Anything urgent goes above the line, and maybe put a few important tasks up there as well. Below the line is anything that can be done within that week. They may be important, but there is no necessity to finish them by five pm that day. I have all these tasks in my company-provided notebook so I’m able to visually assess daily productivity, which seems to work for me. In addition, the office, unlike restaurants I’ve worked in previously, is almost radio silent, and coworkers do not interact as much as I anticipated. To combat the difficulty I experience when working in a room that is uncomfortably quiet, I either start a quiet conversation with a colleague or have a “mental playlist” and play songs in my head.
I’ve also learned how valuable just asking for help is. There is a general misconception that asking questions means a person doesn’t know what is going on or can’t follow along as well as his or her coworkers. I’ve noticed that the opposite is true; asking clarifying questions early not only ensures one does not need to pay for any confusion down the line, but also demonstrates confidence in being able to speak up and gain a better understanding of the task at hand. If I speak up and let coworkers and my supervisor know when I’m confused, I will be able to do higher quality work, execute tasks more effectively, and prove that I am dedicated to doing my best for the company. Correcting ambiguity as premature in the process as possible therefore helps me establish a better reputation and relationship with members of the company than if I took it upon myself to just figure it out. I’m sure that as this internship moves along, I will have more uncertainty surrounding assignments and goals, but setting a foundation to navigate it will be beneficial for long-term performance.