If you cant find put your heart in the work then there is no point of just toiling. Realise that you are a gem of a person and you don’t have to settle for anything that is below your standards. Indeed it was a hard decision for Simrat, but still a lesson is learnt.
First Year Internship – The Good, Bad and Ugly
Getting a first year, an off-campus intern is a huge achievement, or at least I believed it was. The sense of accomplishment that I felt after getting it was unbelievable. So much so that I didn’t even try to find out the nature of work that was in store. I just took a plunge. I dreamt about all the responsibilities that I would shoulder and make a difference to the startup where I had bagged the intern. I surfed the web looking for articles on the founders and the company. I wanted to be completely prepared with all the information before landing there.
I was absolutely sure that I wanted to do everything myself. From accommodation to food, I did not want any kind of support from my family or guardians. I stayed at the co-founder’s place for the first few days, in meanwhile I found an accommodation for myself. It felt good to be staying in close proximity to an ‘important person’ in the company. I tried to ask him as many questions as I could about the startup and it’s functioning as I could. He answered most of my questions but at times seemed a bit dismissive.
I finalised a place to stay in a few days and that was an experience in itself. From calling up brokers’ numbers displayed on boards to visiting each PG and deciding whether to seal the deal or not, I remember every detail. This was my first experience living all alone. Hostel life had seemed a big jump from the cocooned environment of home, but this was a whole new level. It was like I had to set up a home in a new place. Sure, there were moments I missed home and wished to quit but on hindsight, these are life experiences that will stay with me forever.
The first day, they asked me to sit at one of their outlets and ‘observe how business was conducted’. I found it to be a vague instruction, but I agreed. From one thirty in the afternoon to seven in the evening, I sat there and tried to ‘observe’. At times, I found it extremely frustrating to just sit and watch people come and go. I called up my mentor to ask him what was it exactly that he wanted me to do and how much longer would I have to sit around. He asked me to ‘internalise’ the business processes and try out stuff they served. I felt comforted after hearing his suggestions and started saving bills in the hope that he would offer to reimburse them later in the evening. But that offer never came and the bills kept lying in my pocket. To show some initiative, I tried to note bits about their functioning that I thought could be improved. At the end of the day, I had quite the list but it never got discussed.
The same pattern continued for the next few days with just the location changing. I kept trying to find work or an opening to contribute constructively but with little success. During the week, I also tried to get some sense of the kind of stipend I would get. The figure they suggested was not even enough to cover my rent. I requested them to hike it a bit, but it didn’t meet with success. They said that if stipend was such a big concern, I should have flagged it before coming on board.
On Monday, I met with the co-founder to discuss my deliverable for the internship. He wanted me to scout for locations to open new outlets. I have to give him credit for making it seem as though I was going on a treasure hunt and getting me so excited. But after two days on the job in the sweltering heat I figured out that it was something that even a high school graduate could do. But still it was something that I had not done before and the only thing that kept me going was that I was learning skills that I would not have had an opportunity to otherwise. I met with the co-founders and sounded my concerns. Again, they managed to convince me that what I was doing was of great importance to them and they couldn’t have just anybody do it for them. They valued the ‘critical thinking’ that an IITian brings to the table. Another thing that they mentioned was that this was precisely the job they had hired me for. But on my insistence they promised that other tasks would be added to my project apart from the scouting. I came back feeling slightly better that day.
I kept waiting for the ‘other things’ that would be added, but the story repeated itself. The only thing that changed was that I decided that going out in the sun was not worth my time and I sat in the office for most of the day. Surprisingly, nobody minded the fact that I was just sitting there with no work and wiling away my time. This convinced me that there was indeed no point in continuing any longer and even if I didn’t get the stipend or a testimonial, I was quitting. It was a tough decision to make and I had to think a lot over it. I gathered the courage to have ‘the talk’ and say a final goodbye to them. I finally did and it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my chest.
I learnt a lot from this experience and feel that it ought to be shared with everyone. First and foremost, learn to value both yourself and your time. Nothing in the world is worth continuing if you feel it is a waste of any of the above. This is the primary reason that motivated me to discontinue the internship. Secondly, never shy away from communicating face to face with someone when the issues are genuine and you feel they are important. The time I wanted to tell the guys about being bored of the work, I felt conscious of confronting them. I even considered just letting the matter be or talking over the phone. But good sense prevailed and I did talk to them in person and it was worth it. It pays to meet and talk because it conveys the seriousness of the issue and forces the other person to sit up and listen. I faced the same dilemma when I finally took the call to say goodbye, but this time it was easier to take the call. Lastly, never enter a commitment without being fully aware of what awaits you on the other side. Had I cleared the finer details of the internship before packing my bags, a large number of the issues I faced would not have arisen.
Even though I felt disappointed a bit, I took a lot back from it. These memories will the best part of my first year summers. I don’t blame anybody for the way things ended. Their plans were different from my expectations, but the people on the team were awesome guys. I went out on a memorable dinner with the founder and they frequently treated me to mouth-watering lunches. I enjoyed interacting with them and learnt a lot. Even though I ended my internship prematurely, we parted on a friendly note and I know I can always count on them for valuable advice. Forging everlasting friendships with people like these is also a huge investment made during an internship in a startup. I urge everyone to try to intern in the first year, especially an off-campus one. It might not be the most comfortable experience of your life, but it will definitely be the most memorable. Just don’t repeat the mistakes I made and you will definitely stick around for the entire duration.
P.S.: Remember to convince a friend of yours to also take it. You will need the company !!
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