Hi, I’m Charlotte and I am currently on placement with IBM, working on the Barclays Integrated Account. This internship is my first taste of a ‘real’ job in business and so I knew it would be a learning curve from the outset, but I perhaps underestimated the gradient of this curve! As I approach the half-way milestone of my journey with IBM I felt it was a good time to reflect on what it is that’s allowing me to make the most of this opportunity. I wanted to share some of the key things I have learnt throughout this process so far:
The importance of asking questions when you don’t quite understand something or need a bit of clarification on a matter cannot be underestimated. This seems like an obvious one as it has been drilled into our heads throughout student life but we are still reluctant to do so, especially when in the workplace environment. I was reluctant to ask questions at the beginning of my placement simply because “I didn’t want to seem stupid”. Ironically, it was stupid to have that thought process. You’re not expected to know or understand everything the first time around. Good employers will respect questions, and clarification enables you to complete the task. This is especially important when you are a newbie to an industry – as many of us are during our placement year.
Say yes to everything (well…most things)! It is not guaranteed that you will get your dream role for your internship, let alone even know what your dream role is yet, so it is down to you to take initiative and dip your toe into as many parts of the company as possible. I have found the best way to do this so far is by saying yes to the array of opportunities that are there around you. Whether this is participating in Lunch and Learns, networking events or intern competitions, it enables you to experience a different kind of work to your primary role, expand your network, and you never know, you could end up winning the IBM Intern Customer Journey Project 2017!
It can be quite (very) easy to zone out during meetings or office conversations when you are new to a company. Initially, I found it difficult to keep up with the IBM terminology – it really is a different language *considers adding bilingual to LinkedIn profile*. Listening is learning, don’t miss this amazing opportunity to learn from the experienced business people around you. Aside from meetings, just listening to everyday conversations around the office really helped me to understand the workplace dynamic. Office chat has enabled me to learn more about my team members as people, rather than just colleagues. How to interact with people in this way within a work environment is something that is different with everyone and important if you believe this year is as much about the networking as it is about the work experience.
Not only are they jargon-filled, meetings are extremely fast-paced. Conversations didn’t wait for me (the audacity) and so I had to be on my game to keep up with them. Extra-curricular education has been essential to this. Keeping up with the latest news in the industry and business practices makes such a difference to settling into your role. Fortunately, IBM has a learning platform where you can take courses and badges to educate yourself on emerging technologies, if you have access to anything like this then I advise taking advantage of it. Aside from this, taking initiative and learning about what your team are working on will not go unnoticed. It shows that you care about what you and your team are involved in, which goes a long way.