Doing the dishes.

My dad has taught me a lot of life lessons in my 22 short years. Needless to say, the first few were about cleaning up after myself. I always got in trouble for leaving dishes around. I guess eventually I got a little better and at least brought them to the sink. But then they’d accumulate and he’d still come home from work or a business trip and have to clean up after my brother and me.

More than once he told me, “When you’re done with it, rinse it and put it in the dishwasher. If you do it right away, it only takes 30 seconds, but if you wait a week, it takes you half an hour to clean them all.” And who wants to spend half an hour doing the dishes ever?

Eventually he got through to me and I put my dishes away as soon as I’d finished with them. I realized, as I usually do, that he was right. Especially when I moved out and had to clean up after myself. Or worse, after someone else. I wanted to tell my less cleanly roommates what he told me. If you just do them as they come, you save loads of time and effort.

I realized last week that this has played a larger role in my life than homemaking. It has ultimately taken a place in my professional work ethic. When I get a task I put it in my to-do list. And if it’s something I can take care of in a few minutes, that’s what I do. I do it right away. Because otherwise I know the small things will build up and I will spend hours on them later.

Organization and time management are key to prioritizing recurring tasks and unexpected projects. Keep track of what you work on and pay extra attention to time-sensitive items. Take care of what you can immediately so you don’t have to make an extra effort to clean up after yourself (or someone else) later.

Weighing the benefits.

The end is near. The end of my undergraduate career, that is. Just a few short weeks and I’ll officially be a college graduate. It is exciting and intimidating and unbelievable all at once. I’ll admit, it has been a long time coming. And given that, it seems like it should be a relief more than anything else. However, the impending pressures are daunting.

Sure, there’s a possibility that I could have an opportunity in the works at my existing place of employment. But there are a lot of things to consider. I have to understand where my interests lie, and whether they align with the company culture. I have to consider whether I am comfortable making an extended commitment to the company. Because over the last three months we’ve become more than coworkers, and I don’t want to disrespect them at any point either.

I have to consider the costs and the benefits. Both figuratively and literally. As a dependent of my father, I’ve honestly never given a thought to benefits or medical insurance. And now it’s influencing decisions about my potential future. While I learned recently that I can remain on my father’s insurance for a few more years, living away from home affects his coverage choices also.

It becomes even more difficult to make a decision when nothing is certain. Although we’ve discussed it, my boss technically doesn’t have to make her decision until the term ends and my internship is up. So at this point not all the cards are on the table and it seems impossible for me to make an informed decision without all the information.

For now I have to lay out the information I do have and rely on what I know best- myself.

Time out.

When I first began my internship at SMG, Shannon and I agreed on a schedule that would allow an appropriate amount of work hours for the week, considering I’m still in school and the PDXSX has guidelines. While I usually work no more than 30 hours per week, this has still taken quite a bit of getting used to.

I never really worked growing up. I only ever had one semi-crappy summer job. My internship last summer at B|W|R was the most time I’d spent in an office environment. I don’t want to discredit the amount of work that it takes to focus solely on school, but it’s really not the same. You have class for a few hours each day and your schedule is yours to maneuver. Working even a part time job is really much different.

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Especially considering football season and my obsession with the Ducks. I figured while I was still a student I’d go to every game I could, including the not-so-far away games. The Cal game was the first time I’d have to ask for time off because it was on a Thursday. But explaining to my boss that I wouldn’t be at work because I’d be… er, tailgating was not an easy task.

Luckily she approved. But then cautioned me that her one criticism of previous interns was that they had taken too much time off. I thought to myself that I would probably only need time off for one other game and I could make it work. (I didn’t end up going, though.)

Still, requesting time off is on the same coin as calling in sick. And there have been many days when the dark and rain strongly discouraged me from leaving the warmth of my bed. Yet I always managed to convince myself otherwise. In my two months at SMG my other coworkers have taken time off and used sick days while I powered through.

Today, however, I was glad I had. I woke up feeling especially under the weather after a trying weekend in Eugene. I sent

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my team an email saying that I wouldn’t be in but would work from home as much as I could. I was glad, both that I had not used a sick day for a hangover, and that I could in fact work from home.

I suppose the moral of the story comes from a saying my dad always used when I was growing up: “If you’re gonna be a big boy at night, you’d better be a big boy in the morning.” Which eventually comes down to: don’t waste your days off being irresponsible because you’ll never know when you really need them.

The road ahead.

My internship (as well as the rest of my life) has gotten to a very awkward place as we near the end of the term. Technically I’ll finish my internship when the school term is up but there is potential that my boss can offer an extension. Or better yet, a full-time position. And I am now in a state of limbo, if you will.

The end of the term has come without warning. I’ve only about three weeks before I can officially call myself a college graduate. Needless to say, that has been a long time coming. I’ve had a handful of discussions at work about my future, with individual coworkers and as a group. But it never really gets less awkward. To make matters worse, I haven’t even considered looking for another position.

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At a meeting last week my coworker said, “Hey, you’re almost outta here!” Uhh. Yeah. That’s true, I suppose. “Have you started looking for other jobs?” Well. No. No, I haven’t. And to be perfectly honest, I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe because I’ve never had to. My biggest schedule concerns consisted of registration for another term. But I think in part, I’m expecting to stay.

My boss has asked me about my plans on two different occasions, and each time I did my best to express an interest in sticking around. They seem to have gotten rather fond of me at the office, and I of them. But part of me worries about whether that distracts from the real purpose. While friends are lovely, I am there to learn- to find my niche. I have concerns that I don’t know enough about myself to know whether this is the right fit for me. I have still more concerns about how my indecision will affect them.

In some ways, it’s like choosing a major all over again. There’s this intimidating aspect that implies all hell will break loose unless you make the right decision. On the upside, I’m fairly confident with my major. I can only hope that I’ll be equally¬† satisfied with whatever happens next.

Listen up.

My coworkers and I work fairly close together in the office. And there are obviously pros and cons to working in a small, open space. (Granted there are pros and cons to working in any space.) Sure, it takes some getting used to. Meetings are never very private and someone else’s phone calls can be distracting. Luckily all I need is a good pair of headphones and it’s like I’m in another building entirely.

Yet I think there’s something to be said for the advantages of overhearing conversations. As I’ve mentioned before, it encourages a collaborative environment. No one is ever really excluded from a brainstorm or discussion. But I really believe that as the intern – the noob, if you will – I stand to gain more than most by being nosey.

Don’t get me wrong, I know my place and clearly not everything that goes on in the office is my business. Still, I really believe that you can learn a decent amount of information by just paying attention. Perhaps that stems from the way we’re taught in schools, to sit back and listen. Occasionally I lower the volume on my headphones for a few minutes to catch a glimpse into the way my boss organizes and runs meetings. How she plans with a client or a coworker, and how she moves forward and turns the information into action. If she extends and invitation to come to a meeting, I accept. (Even if I don’t have enough insight to make a meaningful contribution.)

You have to realize that the people you work with have a process. More than likely one that works. And if you’re not learning everything you can from them, maybe you’ve no business being there.

Divorcing expecations.

I’ve always heard that you have to know where you come from to know where you’re going. It would be naive to assume that my past didn’t play a role in who or where I am now. And while I try not to give too much credit to my parents’ divorce, I have to admit that it has contributed to much of my personality.

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I think most people would naturally perceive that as something negative. However, I’ve always tried to consider the benefits. It has made me precocious, responsible and independent, which I’d like to believe comes across in my internship role.

I spend a decent amount of time on Twitter at the office and last week I came across an article that claims studies are showing children of divorce may have the necessary qualities to be successful despite the recession. So maybe my attempts to look on the bright side have some justification. Score.

31 Flavors.

I sometimes feel like it can be hard to gauge the work I do at SMG. For example, I recently needed to update my resume and it took some time for me to come up with tangible examples of what I do at my internship. That struck me as strange because I work almost 30 hour weeks and I feel like I’ve always got something to do.

I’ve written blog posts, social media content and press releases, among other things, and I’m without a doubt getting much more hands-on experience than I got at my last internship. Still, I wonder if I could be doing more. I suppose that there should be an ample amount of time spent merely adjusting to the intern life. But I’m also quite certain that getting my hands on as much as I can is really the only route to finding my preferred career path.

With the work I’m doing now, whatever the load may be, I definitely find myself more excited to work on some things while almost dreading others. That has to be some sort of indication, right? And how else could I possibly come to my niche conclusion without trying it all out?

You’ve got mail.

I think it’s safe to say that productivity is key to a successful internship. Actually, now that I think about it, productivity is probably key to maintaining any position of employment.

That said, my very encouraging boss shared an email with the office this week that shook my perspective a little. The article suggests that responding immediately to email is actually inefficient. Shocking, I know. Because we live in such a tech-forward age, this seems counter-intuitive. However, when we take a step back, we have to acknowledge that to some extent, an inbox rather distracting.

I myself am definitely guilty of checking a new message despite being in the middle of a project. And regardless of whether we’re aware of it, it is time-consuming to jump around between tasks. Most time management tutorials suggest best practice is to schedule two or three times a day to check mail.

While you may think this will be a difficult adjustment¬† for you, just imagine your clients’ reactions. Someone who is equally conditioned to immediate responses won’t understand this change of pace. (Especially the clients that think everything is an emergency.) But as a wise manager once taught me, “It’s not the ER, it’s PR.” -Neal Cohen.

Meanginful meetings.

We hold meetings pretty often at SMG. The office is very team-oriented and we meet weekly to discuss client projects, obstacles and future steps. We also meet every other week to brainstorm ideas, topics unrelated to our clients and SMG itself.

It can be tricky coming into a group of people who have worked together for an extended period of time. They know how to work with each other, they communicate well and they understand and value each others’ input. More importantly, each of my teammates has got at least a year of professional PR experience on me.

I spent the first few meetings really just listening. Nodding and acknowledging that I understood, even if I didn’t fully. While the team shares their concerns, I have a thought and shake it off. Most of the time I’m convinced my contribution wouldn’t actually be that helpful. Of course they’ve thought of that already. So I continue nodding in agreement until we go back to work.

Last week when we were brainstorming, I wrote a few notes about an idea I had. I wrote it down because once again, I was sure they’d already considered it. Before the end of the meeting, one of my coworkers had the same idea. The only difference was that she said it out loud. I almost shouted, “I was just thinking that!” A little jealous that she’d said it first.

I suppose at it’s core it’s a struggle with confidence. Just because they are more experienced does not mean they have the same thought process or that they don’t sometimes miss something. It doesn’t mean a contribution that doesn’t develop is any less valuable. And it doesn’t mean that a silly little thought can’t turn into something much bigger.

So speak up. Make meaningful contributions and make not-so-meaningful ones. At the end of the day, everything has to start somewhere. Chances are it begins with a silly little thought.

Facebook friends.

Facebook currently has more than 800 million users. Chances are everyone in your office has one. Chances are they looked at yours long before you showed up for the interview.

I know I looked up SMG’s fan page before I showed up. And everyone who was listed as an employee. I knew who our mutual friends were before I even knew the address.

It wasn’t long after I got the position that my boss sent me a friend-request. I accepted without a second thought. But ten minutes later they came rushing in.

Are my posts inappropriate? My friends? My photos? Will she see things that will make her question my professional capabilities? I immediately combed through my profile to check.

I didn’t find anything outstanding that required removal. My guess is she didn’t either, because I still have my job. And I’ve since friended my other co-workers.

The truth is that there are no clear guidelines for the role of social media in professional relationships. My advice is that it depends heavily on the environment. (Mine happens to be very relaxed and friendly.) But I would recommend that you proceed with caution. Facebook, for most of us, is a very personal outlet for self-expression which typically has no place at the office.

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