Reflection

This summer was a unique time for me. Having just come back from studying in England for the year, I delved right into a new work environment. The industry was unfamiliar to me as was the work and even the location. Quickly, I learned that instead of focusing on how new and unfamiliar everything seemed, I could turn this into a chance to ask questions about just about everything. And this is how I managed to maximize my time at the office and make the experience a worthwhile and rewarding one. Now that I’ve had some time to reflect on the experience, I’ve created a list of the top lessons learned from this summer.

  1. Values matter. Many students looking for internships or entry-level positions focus on ‘the name’ or reputation of a firm. They neglect to learn about the organization’s culture or what its people think are the values that drive the work that they do. To me, the values of my colleagues matter because they are the people with whom I will collaborate and share my work space. As such, there must be some compatibility in what we believe are strong and ethical principles. This summer, I was fortunate to be surrounded by people who maintained, above all, a strong work ethic. Their strong work ethic derives from their alignment behind the belief that business is conducted honestly. It is from my colleagues that I learned how much an organization’s values matter to me.
  2. The Dickinson College Career Center Internship Grant Program is a life-saver. Unlike many academic institutions, Dickinson fully supports – as best that it can – the opportunities with which Dickinsonians are presented. It provides grants to help cover the costs of taking on an internship or relocating, like food, housing/rent, or transportation. Without the grant, I would likely have been unable to afford to relocate for this internship. Every bit of funding makes a difference in having the chance to make the most of your summer employment.
  3. Attitude makes a difference. One of my personal goals this summer was to maintain a positive attitude no matter what. Even though I was in the office by 7am, I always reminded myself that my attitude affects the team’s vibe and I can easily off-put a colleague simply by being negative. Although easier said than done, the small reminder to appreciate the opportunities presented can be all the reassurance you need even when work gets tough. If I can be a source of positivity for my teammates, I feel that I’ve already added value to the organization. For it is by a team effort that we achieve our goals and one teammate can make all the difference.

Finding your way…when you don’t want to leave (week 8)

My last week in my internship started off on a very bright note: my colleague had placed flowers (sunflowers and lavender roses – my two favourites) and a card on my desk before I arrived in the morning. It was her way of letting me know that she has enjoyed working with me but more importantly, it signaled to me that good colleagues are those show their support for others. I’ve been very fortunate this summer to work with colleagues who never once sighed when I marched into their cubicle with a list of questions and in need of some advice. My colleagues have set an example for me: being a professional requires not just business skills, but also personal skills and compassion for others. Like the world outside of work and school, it is through acts of kindness and sympathy for those with whom we share this earth that we can all seek to motivate and support each other. I’ve seen support and kindness all throughout my internship, which is being celebrated on my last day in the office – strategically, the department’s summer party, which I’ve decided is actually my going-away party!

Overall, this has been a very rewarding summer. Although hesitant to relocate, the investment proved to be well worth it. Much of this is due to the generous Dickinson College Internship Grant Program that has helped to fund some of my relocation costs, like food, transportation, and housing. Organized my the Career Center, this program recognizes the value in gaining professional experience over the summer and seeks to support Dickinson students in all the ways that it can. So finally, finding your way when you don’t want to leave means taking a look back at how you got to where you are and the support you’ve gained amidst your journey.

IMG_8428

Finding your way…when you feel adventurous (week 7)

With six out of eight weeks completed, I felt comfortable in the work I was doing and where I was headed with the remaining time in my internship. With my spare time, I decided to ask my mentor if I could shadow or briefly talk with employees from two other departments so that I have a sense of how our departments work together. In the span of a week, I had four coffee sessions with four individuals outside of my department. We discussed their career path and the expertise they’ve gained from staying in their positions for at least a few years. They spoke candidly about what it is like to work with my department, which gave me a different perspective on how my colleagues interact with others, despite having expertise on different subjects. Overall, these meetings helped me to understand how my department receives information from the government and then what the process looks like after my department has done its work to capture business on a certain program or project. Finding your way when you’re feeling adventurous means reaching out to hear another perspective on your own work.

Finding your way: when you feel comfortable at work (week 6)

With five weeks under my belt, I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve worked on a variety of projects, each of which has taught me something different. Gradually, my business acumen is building. At this point, I feel comfortable in my work space. But, this was week six of eight. So, this was the week to plan out exactly what I want to accomplish or experience with the time I have left. I decided to sit down with my mentor and discuss areas of the department and the company that I haven’t yet explored. We decided that I would take some time over the next two weeks to sit with members of other departments of the company that I find interesting and that could help me gain a bit more about how they work with my department. I even sat down with a colleague from another one of the company’s offices to hear his perspective on his time with the company and the industry at large. The best part of an internship is that it is self-guided: it is your time to express your thoughts and turn them into action with the help of supportive teammates. With this mentality, I can ensure that I have the opportunity to capitalize on the time left in my internship so that I can leave with a holistic understanding of how the company works and the ethics of its employees. Finding your way when you feel comfortable at work means being proactive so that you can make the most of the time that is left.

Finding your way: when you miss home (week 5)

Despite having possibly the most rewarding summer internship, this week I finally missed home a bit. And by that I mean home-cooked food, the boat, and celebrating with my home friends. It doesn’t quite feel like summer without a Saturday sail with the family. I’m learning to manage success in the workplace with what I feel outside of work, which this week was longing for home. What I found to be helpful is sharing my favorite parts of work with those who I miss. The other day, I Facetimed with my family to tell them about my recent company travel and the things I’ve learned that I least expected to. Having the opportunity to speak candidly about all the positive faces and opportunities I’ve come across this summer has helped me recognized how blessed I am to be here and to remember to be present so that I can absorb all of the good things this experience has to offer. Finding your way when you miss home means connecting with those you miss and bragging a bit about your accomplishments.

Finding your way: when you miss home (week 5)

Despite having possibly the most rewarding summer internship, this week I finally missed home a bit. And by that I mean home-cooked food, the boat, and celebrating with my home friends. It doesn’t quite feel like summer without a Saturday sail with the family. I’m learning to manage success in the workplace with what I feel outside of work, which this week was longing for home. What I found to be helpful is sharing my favorite parts of work with those who I miss. The other day, I Facetimed with my family to tell them about my recent company travel and the things I’ve learned that I least expected to. Having the opportunity to speak candidly about all the positive faces and opportunities I’ve come across this summer has helped me recognized how blessed I am to be here and to remember to be present so that I can absorb all of the good things this experience has to offer. Finding your way when you miss home means connecting with those you miss and bragging a bit about your accomplishments.

Finding your way: after a year abroad (week 4)

After a year in a small British town, I’m no longer used to the massive American-sized food portions, the aggressive drivers, and the sunshine (that does not exist in Britain). I had no time to adjust from the things that I became part of me during my junior year abroad – morning scones, six-hour library sessions, late-night essay writing, and the inevitable chesty cough – to what I would be experiencing now that I’m back in America. As such, it was not until this week that I had the time to reflect on my year and as a result, it was not until this week that I realized how much I miss it. Amidst these feelings, though, I’ve realized that all of what I experienced has and will in some way positively affect my summer internship experience. Cranking out essays with impending deadlines has prepared me to take on responsibility with composure. Facing beating British rain has taught me that even when you just can’t deal with it today, you will in fact persevere (and in the case of the British rain, it will at some point cease) and that at some point, you won’t even remember that moment. Finding your way after a year abroad means reflecting on both the good times and the challenges with the right mindset: all of what you’ve learned will be put to use when you least expect it. And that’s when you’ll be grateful for your time away but also for your time home.

Finding your way: in a few field (week 3)

Not only are my physical surroundings inside and outside of work different than where I’m from, but I’ve also entered a new field. This summer, I am gaining experience in the defense contracting industry. In short, the US Government relies on the private sector to provide it the innovative capabilities it needs to advance US national security initiatives. Defense contractors work with the braches of the US military to provide weapons and the like the technology it needs to fight the hard fights. I found this industry of particular interest after experience interning in a government in political-military affairs. Over the past few weeks, I’ve begun to explore my interest in understanding the relationship between the USG and the private sector, which have different structures, missions, cultures, and ways of operating. Despite this, they collaborate intimately on some of the most important technological developments that help to keep soldiers safe and ultimately to keep us safe.

This experience has been quite a change from my previous, more research-based positions. Each day, I interface with my entire team as we collaborate along side one another to support key decision makers in the enterprise. I’ve learned that when getting your bearings in a new field, it’s crucial to listen in on as much as you’re allowed to: the more you become aware of what your team is tracking and the more people you meet, the better idea you’ll have of how the company works and what type of work they focus on daily. Finding your way in a new field means having your ears open all the time.

Finding your way: in a new state (week 2)

Part of this summer’s excitement includes finding my way in a new state. A New Yorker by birth, I’m having the opportunity to see a new part of our country beyond just the East Coast and some tall skyscrapers. Although not as much of a culture shock as residing in Britain for a year, the Midwest is not exactly like the East Coast. For instance, it’s not uncommon that most of my colleagues are in the office by as early as 6:30am and more usually, at 7:30am. On the East Coast, this would be strange. Luckily, I’m a morning person and have found starting work earlier in the morning makes the first part of the day much more productive that it would be with a later start.

Re-locating for the summer at first seemed like an added stress to a new experience but I have come to realize that the more responsibility I’m given, the more likely I am to rise to the occasion and take on the challenge with more confidence. Learning where the best grocery store is, going a new gym, and finding the driving route with the least amount of traffic has all added to a summer experience that I’d like to believe has added to my level of maturity: tackling many things at once is a sign of the impending adulthood. It is also representative of how work may one day feel. So as I get my bearings in a new state, I’m also learning how to cope with some of the challenges I may face in the workplace. Finding your way in a new state, then, means finding a way to learn from the small feats and recognize their importance in adding to your personal and professional development.

Finding your way: at your first week in the office (week 1)

Arriving with nothing but jetlag, sore tonsils, a few nerves, and a notepad, I arrived at my summer internship after less than 24 hours back in America and after a year abroad, which left me with nostalgia and what every Brit gets at least once a month: tonsillitis. Under the weather and still not on the right time zone, I still awaited a new adventure: a new state, a new company, and new colleagues. Not only was I beginning two months in an unfamiliar industry, I had moved to the mid-west solely for this inspiring professional opportunity. As such, I gulped down some soothing tea and focused on meeting many of the faces I would come to know over the course of my time in the office.

The first week in any internship is crucial: you are introduced to your colleagues and mentors and begin to settle into the space that will consume your weekdays. As such, it is important to focus on who you are meeting and what they do so that when you are assigned tasks, you know who to turn to for guidance or who may have stake in the project. I’ve learned to keep a stack of the business cards I’ve received and to periodically go through them throughout the first week so that I can associate faces with names and roles in the company.
Additionally, I’ve learned that it never hurts to ask questions in the first week. This is the time when you’re setting up your computer, hooking up to the printers, learning where to keep your lunch, where the closest coffee machine is, and remembering all of your passwords. The sooner you ask for guidance, the sooner you’ll feel part of the team and all settled in so that you can dive into new projects.

Like most of our experiences, the first week can’t be repeated. Finding your way as smoothly as possible will ensure that you make a solid first impression that will carry you through your time in your new environment.