I have always been a very self-seeking individual. This is partly due to the nature of my personality, but I also think it’s an inherent condition of my stage in life. All college students are, on some-level, indecisive and confused about their future. We seek clarity in every class we take or job we work. As I navigate independence and career pursuits, I am constantly looking for my next “ah-ha” moment. Those moments that I realize something about myself, big or small, which helps guide me in making choices about my future. It could be a new strength or weakness I become aware of, or a budding skill or passion I possess. I use the number of “ah-ha” moments as a metric for how valuable an experience is. And during my internship at Pink Petro, I had a lot.
Re-wind to mid-March:
I just returned home from UT Austin for my “extended spring break”. But, what started as a relaxing two-week hiatus turned into an indefinite quarantine. It quickly became apparent that all of my prior expectations for the year were irrelevant - I completed spring classes online and my plan to attend an internship program in New York was called off.
But, just as I had accepted my fate as an unemployed summer bum, I found Pink Petro, and the opportunity to work my first-ever internship. Prior to this summer, my catalogue of work experience consisted primarily of summer camps and restaurants. Not only was my resume in dire need of a boost, but it was time for me to get more applicable and quantitative skills to enter the workforce.
To be honest, I didn’t have very high expectations initially. I was just happy to be employed, even if it was remotely. But despite a seemingly unconducive work environment, I saw immense personal growth. As my internship comes to a close, I have been thinking about the main takeaways from my internship at Pink Petro during the anomalous summer of 2020.
Here are my top 3 lessons learned:
1. You need to get crafty with time management
This summer I have implemented more strategic time management skills. Although college has made me pretty good at handling a heavy load, this is my first time having to balance an internship, summer school, and extreme health stressors all at once. And notably, doing it all from home. This stuck at home part plays a bigger role in effective time management than you might think.
I’m productive when I feel motivated. And my motivation stems from being around others and in dynamic environments. Keep in mind that I’m used to sitting in different classrooms through-out the week and choosing between all the cool libraries and coffee shops my friends and I can study at. Now, my choices are between my bedroom and the dining room table. And my human interaction has been entirely reduced to family. So, I quickly found myself getting antsy and burned out being in one place.
This challenged me to be more creative in spacing out my work, and restructuring for downtime. Some strategies I used include:
- Making a to-do list each night for the next day (not just for work-related tasks, but including any personal goals or random chores I want to complete)
- Morning and/or afternoon walks
- Multiple at-home workspace changes through-out the day
- Intentional planning of my meals (like taking time to make a well-rounded lunch and making sure I space out each meal)
- Playing music when performing conventional tasks.
These small acts can go a long way in improving productivity, and preserving your sanity. These time management strategies will transfer well when I go back to school this fall, and I think they are important practices for all of us to better prioritize our physical and mental health.
2. Digital (namely WordPress) runs the world
Pandemic aside, remote work, and more specifically, digital work, is becoming increasingly prevalent. At Pink Petro, online platforms are the foundation of our community, so we take this transition in stride. I became versed in the language of WordPress, and several of its resourceful plug-in platforms. In addition, I learned more about our customer relationship management sites, all things Microsoft Office, and the intricacies of social networking. These skills will prove to be very valuable as more and more workplaces harness technology for their operations.
3. Communication is key
I have always prided myself on having good communication skills. It’s my go to strength that I list during interviews. But, “communication skills” is a very broad term. Communication is a multifaceted, varied practice. And this summer, I got a glimpse of its different sides.
On one hand, COVID presented its own communication challenges. I soon realized in order to be successful in this job, I was going to have to learn how to interact with my team remotely, schedule zoom meetings when necessary, and keep them updated on my work. Being a tech savvy Gen Z'er, I like to think I naturally had a leg up than most of the world’s workforce when we made the transition to online work. But, nevertheless, it was still a new method of workplace interaction for me. With the nuances of face to face conversation gone, I learned to be more direct and concise when asking questions and providing information.
I also faced communication challenges that were unique to the business of Pink Petro. Being a networking and social media community, Pink Petro depends on communication to be successful. Interacting with members, presenting relevant and niche content, and finding ways to engage with people on social channels are the bread and butter of the company. So, that meant they needed to become my bread and butter. I promoted traffic on our site with event postings and activity feed updates. Moreover, I was in active correspondence with industry professionals inquiring about our company and helping them test out our new site. This exposure to new communication modes has given me valuable transferrable skills.
One last reflection
My boss, Katie, lives by a mantra: "Why Waste a Good Crisis?". Coping with crisis can be the most productive thing we do for ourselves. Why? Because challenges breed progress. Discomfort promotes growth. So, all this to say, this summer ended up looking very different from what I had imagined, but for good reason. Thank you, Pink Petro, for taking a chance on a desperate college kid like me, and for all the lessons learned along the way.