It’s been two weeks since I first started work at my internship, but to be honest, it feels bizarre.
The first thing that feels weird to me is how it doesn’t feel serious. One reason is because my only work experience so far has been to work at Tim Hortons. Thus there’s a sense that if you’re not tired and sore by the end of the day that you haven’t really worked.
The second reason why it doesn’t feel serious is because the hierarchy isn’t very evident here. In high school, there were certain things you had to have to be part of “the top.” One was to be popular, or at least well connected with those around you. It helps if you’re attractive. Two was to do well in school – you had to have a future ahead of you. Three was you had to be strongly involved in extracurriculars: whether it be sports or activism or some community service. If you were good at all of these things, then you were successful.
But at my internship, there’s no clear path ahead for what to do, no list of instructions, no obvious footsteps to follow, and I’ve never encountered this before. I only have one co-worker, and we’re not very competitive with each other, so it’s not the case that we’re sharpening each other’s skills by trying to become better than the other, the way that rivals hone each other. Nor is there a set of tasks that need to be done every day or a textbook to zoom through that you can measure your progress with.
Add to this the process of schooling, which teaches a person to only do things the safe way, while always asking for permission before you do something creative.
My internship is the complete opposite. It is exactly what you make of it; and exactly what you put into it. The unspoken expectation is for us to teach ourselves the skills that we want to improve: everyone else is there to nudge us along in case we go too far away from the acceptable range of productions.
Therefore, what I need to do starting asap is chart my own path. I need to know what it is that I want out of this internship, plan the things that I need to accomplish in order to get closer to my goal for this internship, and develop a schedule so that my plans come to fruition. No more waiting for something to be assigned to me.
It’s also unusual, I believe, for your co-workers to simultaneously be your bosses along with your mentors. And this is the case at my internship. The two owners of the business where I’m working at are really hands on people who try and put in as much time as they can at every single level of the business. You know you have a rock solid captain of the ship when they pay attention to every single level of the organization. That’s exactly what my old boss at Tim Hortons was like, and I’m really lucky to have yet another exemplar at this job.
I brought them up because they also exemplify something else that I want to really become: an adult. I’m currently 19 now, but it feels like I’m just a child who’s grown old. I’m still pretty weary of the world, which is not what I should be, and the complete opposite of my two bosses. They’re individuals who go and get what they want, and are not afraid of falling down in the process. I ought to emulate this.
Finally, there’s the imposter syndrome that I’m feeling. This is how I felt when I first started at Tim Hortons, but after I had found my way around everything in the business, I felt as if I had mastered it. Mastery at Tim Hortons probably means that you’ve deeply memorized each of the micro routines that you need in order to work well there, such as “make coffee”, or “make a sandwich while taking change”, etc. Once you’re able to do them in your sleep, then you’re set.
With a business like HustleCo where I’m working now, mastery comes not from the internalization of set routines. Rather, mastery comes from the internalization that whatever the task that will come up in front of you, you will be able to succeed at it, even though you don’t know the particulars of how to solve it. The skill that I’m developing is not how to solve a problem, or how to make x. What I’m learning is how to come up against the set of all problems, and what I can do to create instructions on how to make x.
From my perspective, this is a much more daunting skill to pick up. But it’s also much more impressive, not to mention useful.
On y va.