Over the course of my summer internship, I learned a substantial amount. However, the vast majority of what I learned was not necessarily what I was expecting to learn going into my internship. I went into my internship expecting to learn a substantial amount of “hard skills”, as I had laid out in my Site Description and Personal Contributions paper; for example tools to further enhance my Excel knowledge, what to look for in certain accounts to identify which were doing well or which were doing poorly, or how to identify a prime company to merge with or acquire. Instead, the vast majority of my learning pertained to how to interact in a corporate office environment, and what the “real-working world” was like. This coincided with other goals I had laid out, particularly prioritization and narrowing down what field of business I may want to go into.
While I did learn certain hard skills, for example how to navigate and use SharePoint as well as OneDrive, the greatest lessons I learned were in communication, organization, and independence.
In regard to communication, I went into the office without knowing anybody and had to learn how to communicate with each individual. Each person within the office had different methods of communication that they preferred, therefore I found it important to identify how to effectively communicate with each member. For example, I communicated very differently with an HR representative who sat near me than I did with our CFO, and that is because the CFO and HR representative were two different people. Our CFO was a very strict, older man, but he also enjoyed joking around at times, while the HR representative was a new employee who was far more laid back and easy going. Most of the office was apprehensive, or at times timid, when communicating with our CFO, which I believe was due to a combination of his title and his no-nonsense manner. However, he reminded me very much of my own grandfather, and I was able to discern how to best communicate with him. I knew that it was business first, but that once the business was dealt with, he enjoyed joking around or poking fun at people. He would make a comment, and I would be one of the few people to make a comment back, but I was always careful to never cross any lines. As a result of my confidence and respectful quick-witted responses, our CFO had more “non-work” conversations with me than anyone else.
While I was confident and at ease speaking with him, I was more laid back with our HR representative as she was a very nice lady who enjoyed discussing her children. That was another aspect of communication that my mother had always taught me, but that my internship helped me to learn firsthand. When working with people, it is important to identify what they enjoy or to make notes on certain aspects of their lives. People love talking about themselves or their passions, so if you are able to identify these you are able to get a leg up on those around you as it pertains to your relationships with the individuals. At my internship, I learned that our HR representative had two children who she enjoyed talking about, and that our CFO’s passion was biking. As a result, I made sure to consistently ask about her children or how summer school was going, as well as discussing bike trips my CFO had taken or was going to take. Keeping track of this information was at times difficult, which lead to the next skill I enhanced through the internship, my organization.
Whenever I met somebody new at the office, I would write their names down in my notebook as well as write one unique fact about them. This would not only help me remember them, but it gave me something to mix in a conversation to show them I was paying attention to what they were saying. Remembering names is not my strong suit, therefore getting in the habit of writing them down after a conversation was extremely helpful in recalling them when I saw the person again. During my internship, I had one primary project that I was responsible for completing, and that was to ensure that all Accounts Receivables Agings, Accounts Payables Agings, Inventory, Rollforwards, and Below the Line accounts for each company within Justrite Safety Group was accounted for and available to access. I was to do this for each month of 2019, as well as all of 2018. Due to there being around twenty companies under Justrite Safety Group’s umbrella, organization was crucial to keep track of who had turned in what. Not only was it important to keep track of who turned in what, but I found it important to be organized and cognizant of when I reached out to certain controllers. Our CFO constantly peppered me with questions pertaining to whose accounts were missing or when I would be done, therefore it was important that I wrote down and kept track of when I emailed people, who had replied, and who had not in order to protect myself. As a result, I constantly wrote down updates along with dates in my notebook. Therefore, not only would I know who I was still waiting on, but I would be able to answer any of our CFO’s questions pertaining to whose accounts were in or who had not yet replied to me. I learned to do this quickly after the first two weeks, as I realized I made a far stronger impression and performed a better job when I was highly organized and effectively able to manage and track the twenty separate accounts.
The final, and most difficult lesson I learned pertained to independence. I had “supervisors” at my internship, however the vast majority of my work was done independently and with minimal instruction from my “supervisors”. My direct supervisor was a very nice person; however, he had only been at the company two weeks longer than myself, therefore he was trying to learn the ropes and new systems as well. As a result, I had to figure nearly everything out on my own. One of my co-workers, Sergio, was the most helpful person and saved me hours of struggle by sitting down and explaining how to find certain accounts or forwarding me whatever information I requested. In the working world, people have different priorities, and replying to an intern about uploading accounts is often not high on their lists. Consequently, Sergio’s assistance was integral to me completing my tasks this summer as he assisted in attaining the information I needed. Having said that, the independence I learned from having to learn a variety of different processes and systems and reaching out to people on my own was highly valuable as it prepared me for the “real world” more than anything else in my internship.
My leadership courses were instrumental in the way in which I approached work each day. Jepson’s focus on communication and developing relationships in each course was integral in how I chose to interact with my co-workers. As I previously illustrated, I had very little instruction and as a result often had to learn through a trial and error method. Knowing this, I knew the relationships I would make would be crucial in completing the tasks asked of me. Further, I had limited “hard skills” as they pertained to what I was doing, which made each task more difficult and caused me to make small mistakes. Initially, I struggled with this as I am a perfectionist and want everything done correctly the first time. I am great at being patient and understanding with others, however if I am the one making mistakes, I feel inadequate and feel that I am hurting those around me. However, I learned from Jepson that undertaking new tasks and making mistakes are integral in the learning process. I reflected and realized that you truly cannot learn anything new if you do not try anything new. Additionally, how is someone supposed to be perfect at something they have never done before? This realization helped me to further examine leadership and further examine myself. For example, Sergio, the individual who helped me most, would be considered a follower within the organization as he is lower on the chain of command. However, great followers are integral to great leaders and necessary to the success of the operation. Although he was a follower within the organization, he was a leader to me, further supporting what I had learned in Jepson that anybody in an organization could be a leader in some form or another. As a result, you must treat everyone with the same respect and kindness because if one rung of the ladder breaks, whether it is at the top or the bottom, the ladder is unstable.
Finally, an aspect of my internship that I observed from my Jepson classes pertained to different leadership styles throughout the office. The CFO took a more authoritarian approach, while the CEO implemented a more charismatic leadership style. As a result, the CEO appeared to be more liked throughout the office, although both were equally respected as the CFO produced strong results. However, it appeared to me that the charismatic approach was more effective, as the employees were more enthusiastic and happier when working for the CEO rather than the CFO. As stated, they produced similar results, however the workplace was more pleasant under the CEO rather than the CFO, and I believe that the charismatic approach is more beneficial in the long run.
Overall, my internship was a very positive experience. I did not necessarily enjoy it; however, I am grateful for all of the lessons that I learned from it. Through the variety of different leadership styles and experiencing a variety of interactions within the office, I was able to learn significant lessons pertaining to communication, organization, and independence. These skills will help me with my future endeavors, which satisfies my primary objective of improving myself for the future.