Leaving university without a raft
Leaving university has been one of the most daunting, scary moments in my life. It meant experiencing proper freedom and independence, but also huge responsibility. When my university bubble popped, I had to choose between either moving home to my parents or moving in with friends (and being financially responsible).
I was at a crossroads where, I felt, one wrong turn could take me down the wrong career path. I had been told to be careful what career I chose because it's hard to swap to another if it doesn’t suit me. Emotions were high, with all my hopes, goals and dreams visible in the distance, but I didn’t really know how to reach them.
When I was younger, my friends and I used to have raft races where we'd make a makeshift boat out of anything we could find - old wood, rope or any scrap material. The challenge was to get to the other side of the river. However, if the raft broke, you'd find yourself in the water and have to start swimming. You would then need to head back to mend your raft, to make the journey again to the other side of the river.
The idea that my hopes, goals, and dreams were on the other side of the river, but I had to build myself a raft to get there, and would need to rebuild it if it broke or things didn't go to plan was the approach I took when I finished uni.
I graduated with a degree in Fashion Communication and Promotion with a Master's in Psychology, focusing on Consumer Interaction and Behaviour.
At uni, I went to all the career fairs and listened to my tutors explaining the job lines I could go down. However, I could never really understand what they were or what the jobs entailed. I realised my CV was one of a huge pile of CVs and started feeling as though perhaps I wasn't that special. I definitely felt like my raft was starting to take on water.
Finding an internship
I spoke to anyone I could about my goals and asked for any help or advice they could give me. Any spare time I had, in between my shifts in a bar, was spent on completing free online courses to boost my CV.
Through my network, I was incredibly lucky to be put in contact with Sei. Through my eight-week internship with Moonstory, she has not only been an incredible boss to me but an inspiring mentor. I feel like I have grown both professionally and personally.
In this post, I'm going to share some of the biggest lessons I learned through my internship as a Digital Marketing Manager as I've learned more with Sei than I think I learned through my undergraduate degree.
One experience I'll forever be grateful for is how Sei let me sit in on many meetings she had with key members of the client organisations we worked with. She also allowed me to talk and ask questions in these meetings. I can't express how valuable this was for me.
I'd highly recommend asking to sit in on these sorts of meetings. I saw how the same messages were tailored, depending on who we were speaking to, in order to achieve the best outcome for the organisation. This is an invaluable skill and one you don't really learn through university, but you can learn in a workplace with a great mentor. If you have the opportunity to sit in on client meetings, even just to take notes, ask!
Getting too big for your boots
Who honestly likes to be knocked down a few pegs? I don't! It's difficult in the moment, but probably one of the most valuable and helpful things for your own personal development.
Sei said to me once in our weekly Monday morning meeting,
People typically have 3 stages when they start a new job:
- You're new, still trying to find your feet and nervous in case you mess up.
- You start to get a bit cocky and think you can do everything, but this is where you mess up and make mistakes.
- You settle into your role, understand what your job is asking of you and are able to perform at your full potential.
What stage are you at?
This is hard to be asked because no one wants to say they're stage 2. Everyone makes mistakes. We're human, not robots but silly mistakes are sometimes the hardest to get over and deal with. But, understanding them and knowing you've messed up is the biggest lesson.
If you're anything like me and hold yourself accountable for the mistakes, finding it incredibly hard to let them go, write your mistakes down! Write what you've done wrong and how to not make this same error again. It helps you learn to deal with the mistake, get it out your head, and on a piece of paper. Learn to let it go but always remind yourself not to do it again.
Sadly, making mistakes is inevitable. The good news is, learning from our mistakes is a huge opportunity for us to grow and move forward.
I think these three stages are an accurate picture of a person in a new job. The better we understand this about ourselves and our skills, the easier things get. We'll still go through the stages but being aware of them helps you get to stage 3 faster.
The power of data
Data is a powerful tool for learning about people's habits, wants and needs. Through my internship, I learned how to use data to back up my points. I was able to experience a real audience survey where we collected and analysed survey data to help us understand users’ needs and decide what to do moving forward. The data informed our decisions even though it was an industry and audience base that I don't have expert knowledge in.
My tip here is to learn to use Excel to a high standard before or alongside your internship! It will make your life dramatically easier.
A few other tips and tricks to get through an internship:
- Plan your work; don't kid yourself that you can wing it or rush things. Set yourself little deadlines to have the work done.
- You've heard the saying breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and yes, I agree. But, I'd like to expand on it, believing it's about having a good morning routine that sets you up for a good day. I get up every morning to do yoga, have my breakfast and prepare myself for the day. This really helped me have a clear plan of what I wanted to accomplish that day and focus on that.
- Time management - this can be the hardest. I had a job in a bar as I did my internship and it was hard at times to juggle both. Good organisation skills helped, and I tried to always have a little bit of my own time as well, which is vital!
When you leave uni, your raft will break more times than you can plan for, but my internship with Sei has definitely made the swim back to shore a little bit sweeter.
My biggest advice, after this experience, is to find an internship instead of going headfirst into a career if you can. That way, you can make sure it's the right job for you. Through my internship, I was lucky enough to try out many different tasks other than solely digital marketing-related work.
One task I found extremely helpful was to create a sheet of other jobs on the market that are related to the ones I find interesting and researching them to learn about the skills required for those jobs and the progression paths they had. I was able to map my skills to those roles to see if I was better suited to something totally different from what I thought.
When your raft breaks and you take on water, you have to swim back and rebuild it. It may take longer than you planned and break more times than you'd want, but remember, it will feel so much sweeter when you finally reach the other side. I'm not on the other side yet, and I guess it's up to every individual to define what the other side of the river means to them. That said, what can be true for everyone is that every time your raft breaks, you should start swimming because you have to start somewhere, and an internship was the best place to start for me.