Lila Pitcher is our Academic Blogging Intern. At the office, she is responsible for creating and producing various Blogging Help Resources for the University website before the platform is launched. On the side, she works hard on the creation of a dad joke committee while attempting to control her hyperactive limbs.
Starting my first internship was a wonderful mix of new faces, events and projects. It all began with a whirlwind of questions and one fear: stagnation of routine.
I finish reading the email from my future manager and give in to a mostly-embarrassing air punch. Many enthusiastic texts to my family and friends ensue.
‘Sooo, what exactly will you be doing every day?‘ my father asks.
I blink. I’m not sure exactly. But isn’t that always the case before you start a job?
I know I will have a part to play in the release of a new blogging platform for the University. In terms of specifics: I could be in charge of copy and pasting documents just as much as I could be teaching older web users to blog (I don’t tell my father this, or he would definitely find a way to attend). The bottom line is I don’t know with certainty.
Regardless, I am excited to find out.
Unbeknownst to my little April self, many more questions would follow.
Sunday 3rd June
Internship -1 day
I stare at my laptop screen. Ok, what question should I start with? I scratch my nose – Professional one it is. It will make me feel less guilty for the following, more futile ones.
‘How do you ask someone to connect on LinkedIn?‘. I can see the scene unravel before my very eyes: A networking event. I have put on my best shirt and stayed away from the alcohol buffet. I decide to be bold and diffuse the tension by cracking a joke to Samantha, the head of department. An awkward silence settles as it flops, and I wait too long to adopt the ‘cackle at myself’ strategy. My eyes widen in unsuccessfully hidden panic. Mayday. ‘I forgot.. to get my salad out of the freezer’ I stutter as I run out.
I shudder. No. Next question:
‘how to sit at a desk for 7hours without wanting to move?‘. I look at my already jittery leg. I sigh. Ok, moving on. ‘what to wear to an internship?’ leads to an unsettling blog about shirt buttons. I decide to give up on asking Google whether I will ever be able to fit in a GP appointment.
Looking back on my questions I realise this all comes down to the technicals of a 9-5 job schedule.
Being the mildly hyperactive join-9-societies-to-stay-busy type, I know that I have fled routine as much as uncomfortable catch-ups with my dentist. I know it: meeting people and working on a big project will be my focus here, but adapting to a new lifestyle will be my challenge.
I decide to sleep on it.
Not to find answers as I wake but simply to do the inevitable: find out myself.
Wednesday 2oth June
I follow my manager out of a meeting while mentally reminding my shirt to stay tucked in. The day has zoomed by, fuelled by project discussions and an energising lunch break.
A little less than 3 weeks at the internship has been enough to prove to me that routine is not what I was getting into. Or more to the point, that routine was not necessarily a source of bitter-bored-bathroom-break filled days: parts of this lifestyle has already taught me fulfilling lessons.
A big part of enjoying this rhythm has come, as you may expect, with my project.
I have been assigned to work on Help Resources for the blogging project that will be available come September. Of course, I have always loved blogging, writing for different audiences and dabbling with online platforms – so I knew the content would please me.
I had, however, been afraid of the stereotype of interns you too often come across: only being given the responsibility of putting the right amount of milk in a cuppa.
Happily surprised, I found actual work waiting for me – and to my great pleasure, quite a lot of it.
Being busy has been topped by being given varied tasks that enable me to expand not only my writing or research skills: I am also producing the web pages, working on different formats such as flowcharts and matrixes, trying out blogging platforms…
The fact that the department offers many courses to employees enables me to expand my skills outside of the scope of my projects. They also chop up long days, keeping them from being summarised by one word: keyboard.
These courses and work meetings have also cured my endlessly jittery leg. So if you have also been told too many times to buy a fidget spinner – don’t worry: you will survive office life without getting amputated.
The great thing is I don’t only feel like an intern, I feel like an employee. And this is mostly due to the independence and autonomy I am given by my managers. Being trusted with work is an amazing feeling that comes hand in hand with having to make decisions, on my own, about the best way to approach an issue. Just like taking control of my 9-5 schedule, I am given the opportunity to take control of my day.
All of this reminds me that yes, I am not at the beach, but I am not a victim of my job. I have an equal seat at the table… The desk, ok, the desk.
Welcome to the office lifestyle: where checking your Outlook email becomes more addictive than a good book. Oh no my dear colleague – don’t deny it. I see the light in your eyes when Monday 9am comes along.
Where it all happens – our adoptive workspace and my new best friend: Office 365.
This internship and its lifestyle, believe it or not, has made me excited for post-graduation.
Let me paint you a picture: you ask any student going into 4th year what they are going to do after finishing University. They probably open their mouth, shut it, turn around and leave giving you a terrible excuse – something like getting salad out of the freezer.
Nearly every time I mention that I study History of Art and English Literature someone will look at me unenthusiastically and say: ‘Huh. You gon’ be a teacher then?’.
Nearly every time I want to put my hands up to the sky and shake my head.
I have always been confident that non-teacher opportunities do exist in the deep dark world of professionalism. Despite this belief, I have lacked examples to give me hope.
You can imagine my internal shriek of joy when I learnt that many talented people here have graduated with the same degree I will hopefully hold next June. They may today still work for Academia, but not in a classroom. And that is a lesson learnt. We live in a world where a degree mostly represents a ton of transferrable skills – it is nice to remember that.
Some of us do these internships because the title matches our dream job. Whether that is the case or not, we are learning something about ourselves and the professional world that will bring us closer to a lifestyle that suits us.
Most of us also imagine that working in an office means our social activity is non-existent: reduced to the occasional post-work drink with a reticent desk mate.
There, I could not have been more wrong. The fulfillment brought by the content of my work has only been trumped by the joy found in the people I have met here.
My fellow interns and I agreed to meet for lunch on the first day whilst we were all awkwardly seated around the reception coffee table. We never stopped. Lunches became daily re-occurrence, much to the despair of everyone else in the building who must hear us discuss our favourite YouTube videos. Sorry.
Being around them is a fantastic way to get new perspectives and expand my knowledge. Trust me, coffee conversations about their day feel like crash courses on computer programming, communicating, design…The diversity of each of our roles teaches us a lot, not only about a skill but about the scale of the University.
In no other circumstance would a group of such different people have been assembled; and in very few circumstances would such a blend work so well.
And outside of work?
‘Sure, workdays are great. But can you do ANYTHING on the side?’ I hear old-me mutter. Yes, working 9-5 has without doubt asked me to modify my lifestyle: I can’t necessarily run to the post office before it closes and I just must deal with the traffic at the gym.
However, it also did me a lot of good. I found comfort in those planned moments of the day – the ones we tend to take for granted: a book whilst eating breakfast, an episode of a good show in the evening or simply knowing that I’ve done something useful in the day. (or, yes, that post-work drink with the reticent desk mate).
Before starting, I worried that the 9-5 rhythm would numb my lifestyle. With joy, I have found that it has added a spark in many of my daily tasks.
Skills improved have expanded from the professional space to my personal life: I am, for example, better at being a morning person; better at networking and -very importantly- better at preparing a week’s worth of falafels. And that makes it all worth it. So, chin up (even you, hyperactive friend!): internships can be good for you – in many more ways than you imagine.