2 Months Down, 2 To Go!

So, it’s November 1st. The semester is half-way over and so is my internship. Even though there are no mid-term examinations for work (thank goodness!), you can still look back over the past few weeks and reflect upon what I’ve learned. More life skills than anything, certain aspects of being a successful young professional simply cannot be taught. Communication, teamwork, listening and flexibility are just a few of the many important characteristics that real-world experience adds to the breadth of knowledge acquired in the classroom.

I cannot stress this enough, but the first aspect that will really help or hinder one’s success is time management. The ability to prioritize, set clear goals and accomplish them will be something that sets you apart from others. For me, it’s bringing my textbooks to get in some reading during the morning commute or proof-reading a paper on the way home or collaborating with fellow interns to complete major projects, it’s these small things that help me stay on task in the office. For me too, it is especially important to keep my handy-dandy planner on me at all times (for those of us without an iPhone!).

Furthermore, the ability to communicate well with your boss, coworkers and clients is oh so essential. You really need to express the company’s objectives in a manner that can be understood and achieved. While writing to politically active individuals in Uganda via email, this skill was put to the test. I needed to garner specific information. In order to obtain it, it was imperative that I ask the question correctly and frame it within a context that would evoke the best response.

Lastly, it’s important to listen. Not hear someone, but really listen to them. In order to find out the needs that exist and the best method of meeting them, it is vital to listen. I have learned that there is a huge difference between what I think is needed and what that person actually needs. When working with individuals in Africa, it sometimes can be easy to forget that basic frameworks and points of reference that we consider mundane can be actually quite the opposite. Where we are used to the ubiquity of cell phones and electricity, others may have never even seen such a device.

It is for these reasons that it is so very important to participate in internships during one’s schooling. It allows you to see your subject matter come to life and also to practice important professional skills. I know I have learned much more than my textbooks can teach me.