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I completed my first internship last summer and I’ve come to realize that there are a lot of differences between college and work life. Even though they’re fundamentally different in nature, there are some qualities that can become habits to ensure a smooth transition.
Maintaining work-life balance
When I first started my internship, I wasn’t particularly paying attention to the number of hours I was working. The earlier weeks, especially with the training and orientation, felt a lot more like school. I would often work extra hours trying to get ahead in those training sessions. If it were college, and I were studying for a class outside of the traditional study hours, it wouldn’t be that much of an issue. However, with work it’s important to maintain the balance between your work life and your personal life. It’s very easy to overstep the boundaries and overwork yourself, especially when everyone is working from home. Going to the office might help you maintain balance since you won’t have access to your equipment after 5 p.m., but working from home can be a lot different. It’s important to remember that you should strive for the “golden mean,” which means neither overworking yourself nor spending your working hours binge-watching Netflix.
Research and study-up
Working is somewhat similar to school in that you won’t always be doing something you know how to do. Even though you were hired to do what you’re good at, you might often find yourself working on something you’ve never done before or something that a colleague was supposed to do. In those situations, you might have to spend some time doing your research and understanding how to do the task at hand.
Collaborate with other employees
Depending on the kind of firm or organization you work for, more often than not you’ll be building on top of something that someone else has already worked on. While school projects are individual efforts from scratch, work involves comprehending other people’s work and making yourself flexible enough to be compatible with them and their work. After all, it’s all about team effort.
Communicate with your manager
Just like your professor prepares a syllabus at the beginning of the semester to outline the course structure and contact information, it’s a good idea to establish this foundation with your manager early. You should know how your manager wants you to communicate with them. Don’t forget that this can vary from not just company to company, but also team to team at the same company. Being transparent about these things is key to building a good rapport with your manager and rest of the team.
Know when to ask questions
While it’s a good idea to spend days trying to figure out a problem yourself before asking the professor for help, it might not be in your best interest to continue the same habit at work. Keep in mind that this is a very subjective thought. Depending on who your manager is, they may or may not want you to ask them about everything. It’s always safe to try to find a workaround yourself, but don’t spend hours trying to find a solution when your manager could point you in the correct direction within minutes. They most likely do not want you wasting your time on something that they could help you with. Now, this doesn’t mean that each time you have a problem, you run to your manager. Just remember they’re still there to help you, and they want you to succeed.
These are some things I’ve observed so far and some tips that might help you when you start to work. I’ve only been working for a couple of weeks now, and I’m already really enjoying work life because of the stability. I’m curious to see what it’ll be like when I’ll have to transition back to college life in the fall, but that’s for another blog!