As the summer draws to a close, thousands of students across the country are rolling off summer internships. Inevitably, that means nearly every third Linkedin post is a success story about the awesome things that undergrads have achieved this summer!
Social media is very much a highlights reel, and for young women to succeed in male-dominated industries, we need to normalise the day-to-day learning experience that comes with entering new environments
So, I thought I’d mix things up with something different. I’ve had an amazing time interning at a consultancy this summer, but in a world where female students are more likely to suffer from impostor syndrome, less likely to apply for internships in fields such as tech and often won’t apply for positions they don’t feel qualified for, I’m here to share some of my key mistakes over the past ten weeks – and the lessons I took from them.
The 5 Mistakes I Made on My Internship
Catch the key learnings in italics
1. Assumed that quant work and Excel was way out of my ability. As a humanities student whose IT education ended at the grand old age of 15, my mind was all over the place during the Excel workshop on my first week. Whilst most of my fellow interns were flying through the tasks, I was trying to covertly Google how INDEX/MATCH worked (or even… what it was?). However, after a couple of weeks of extra effort, learning by doing and incorporating feedback from my managers, my skills improved twelve-fold.
Don’t count yourself out before you’ve even started. Be honest about your familiarity with different tools and take a growth mindset.
2. There’s no comparison between you and your peers. My intern cohort was great and impressively talented, including numerous languages, coding skills and Masters- & PHD-level students. Initially, it was hard not to question how my own skill set would compare. Recognising that this bias came from myself and receiving the support of my fellow interns made me realise that we all brought something different to the table.
An internship is an opportunity to develop your skills as an individual: focus on how much you’ve grown and developed, rather than the progress of others.
3. Tried to use the printer for the first time: auto-stapled straight through my ID card. The less said about this one the better.
4. Not specifying task granularity. Once I ended up staying in the office til late, attempting to piece together an incredibly complex piece of work in a short time frame. I cancelled my evening plans and almost definitely drank too much caffeine for a normal human. Come morning, the research didn’t cover a key element of the task… and needed repeating regardless.
When taking on a new piece of work, make sure you understand exactly what information is required and to what level – it’ll save you time in the long run.
5. It’s never too soon to think of the bigger picture. My initial approach was that as an intern on a project in an unfamiliar technical space, it would take me months before I understood enough to grasp how the entire project linked together. With time, I realised that it wasn’t necessary to understand everything to make more meaningful contributions.
When you’re working on a task, think about what the impact of your work will be for the next stage ahead, or the next level up. When you’ve finished, before talking to your manager, take a minute to summarise what the key takeaways from your analysis are and what you think would be a good next step. This helps to build a proactive approach to problem-solving.
The key message of this article is that mistakes are normal and a huge opportunity to learn. I did numerous things this summer that I was really proud of, but above all, I was proud of my own resilience and growth-orientated approach.
I was fortunate to have this experience and know that internships and early careers can be a mystery, so I hope that this article is useful to you.
As always, my Linkedin inbox is open for any questions – drop me a message here.
What mistakes have you made lately, and how have you learned from them?