Confessions of a Summer Intern: Reflections of a (Virtual) Intern

Alysondra Milano

For my final post, I’d like to take some time on what my experience has been working with Time at the Table as a virtual intern. Interning for them has been one of the best internship experiences I have ever had, even though I do most of my work independently. With a virtual internship, you are given freedom to be creative on a project and your superiors will expect you to do good work. This type of internship is not one where you will be bringing your bosses coffee. They have real expectations of what you can accomplish, and they want quality work.

I have written many things that have been distributed on a national level. In all of my other internships, they are only distributed locally since their focus is only the surrounding area. As a public relations student, this gives me a better chance of getting my work out in another major city rather than just the ones close to home. I can share my ideas and get feedback quickly, so the editing process is usually a lot faster as well.

One thing that has been hard sometimes is to find time to do my projects. I have found that if I do not schedule them as if I had to be at an actual building for work, I put things off. I try to plan out a few hours each week now to work on my projects for the week. Because of this, some other interns have left this organization because they could not keep up with the demands.

In other internships, I have sat in the offices for hours, waiting for them to give me something to do (even though I asked for additional work constantly). At times, I felt that I was not valued in my office because I was not given that extra creative space to write as I saw fit for the project at hand. With this position, you have to have the dedication to sit down and really produce quality work.

Time at the Table has given me the opportunity to fly out to Baltimore, MD to work on their workshops. This type of travel and exposure is something I likely could not have done with a local nonprofit.

I will say that not all local internships are a bad thing. I also created a virtual volunteer social media position with Valley of the Kings animal sanctuary in Sharon, WI. These small (and possibly self-created) internships are a great way to get a foot in the door and have something to add to your resume. I use each internship as a learning experience. Don’t be afraid to start small and work your way up to larger scale projects. As long as you keep your focus and stay on top of your work, the bigger internships you are looking for will come! All it takes is some practice and patience, and maybe a virtual internship or two.

Read Alysondra’s Internship Journey

  1. Meet Alysondra Milano
  2. Getting a Virtual Internship

Other Summer Intern Confessions

Gabby Fenzel

Erin Quist

Sarah Suter

 

Confessions of a Summer Intern: Time Flies When You’re Learning So Much

Welcome back! How quickly time flies when you’re learning so many new concepts and terms! As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a variety of projects that I continue to work on simultaneously. A few of them are near completion, but luckily I still have a little time before their due dates.

The doors to my office!
Gabby's Office

This month, I really focused on networking. Due to the fact that Rockwell is such a large company, I really considered the pros and cons of networking. I found very quickly that there are no cons. My version of networking is a little different than others. I chose to hold a one-on-one meetings that consisted of a half-hour conversation, asking select individuals about their education, career experience outside and at Rockwell, challenges and achievements, and where they see themselves in five years. Hearing first-hand from my personally selected group of HR and Marketing/PR/Communications employees helps me understand what each department does in relation to Rockwell’s “big picture.”

There are two reasons behind my one-on-one meetings. The first is to help me learn which career path I would like to take (Marketing and HR are both very different aspects of business), and the second is to make sure I can sustain corporate friendships and check in with them upon graduation. Hopefully, one of these individuals will remember and advise me to apply for any available positions come May. Right now, I have met with over 40 people and hope to keep in contact with all of them. Ultimately, I hope my efforts lead me in the direction that best fits my work style and career goals, as I would love to pursue a career here.

There are a variety of qualities that I am impressed with about Rockwell. I can definitely say that I will have high expectations for any other corporate company. There were countless orientations that provided information all about the company. Rockwell has an event called, ‘Lunch and Learn,’ where speakers come and talk in a huge conference room during our lunch so that we can use our time wisely and still be able to listen and learn while we’re eating. It’s a pretty neat experience. Usually, the topics are pretty interesting, like Short Term International Rotation (STIRs) or Rockwell’s very new Leadership and Development program. People such as the Senior VPs and VPs of the company come and speak to us! I always look forward to these presentations.

Bridge Market (Like Prairie Street and Drumlin Market)
Bridge Market at Rockwell Automation

The Cafeteria
Cafeteria at Rockwell

Another thing I am impressed with is Rockwell’s mentor program. Of the 123 interns in Milwaukee and Mequon, all of us have a formal mentor assigned to us. These mentors may meet with us weekly or bi-weekly to check in with us on our progress, give us advice on our projects, answer any questions we might have, help us find our strengths and skills in our field, or supply career advice.

My mentor is also an HR rep but for a different business unit called Operations and Engineer Services (OES).  It’s great to learn from her because of her experience with the company. She has worked with me on a few projects and has provided information and insight that I never would have thought about. I am so happy I was assigned to her and will definitely keep in contact with her throughout my career.

The Fitness Center
Rockwell Fitness Center

As for progress on my projects, I am doing well. I have had a variety of smaller projects along the way to keep me fresh. One of these smaller projects includes an hour long presentation about managing four different generations in the workplace. Currently, there are Traditionalists (1922-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1980), and Generation Y (1981-2000). All have different values and viewpoints about their work and the way things are done. I am creating the presentation about how to manage these differences and to identify what the differences are.

Ultimately, I mention how all generations can attempt to merge their different styles into a cooperative and successful work atmosphere, so that companies can retain their new talent and continue the spread of knowledge throughout the company. I will present it to a full room of my intern peers as well as my manager and a few other HR reps and managers. I am eager to be finished, but it will take so much to talk for an hour without notes! I would like to say I am not nervous about presenting, but I fear that presenting in front of students at school is a lot different than potential employers.

Practicing for my presentation.
Gabby Practicing Her Presentation

Wish me luck! I will share the results of my projects with you in my last post. I can’t believe it’s already July.

Until next time – Gabby Fenzel

I Don’t Want to Hear It! How to Accept Constructive Feedback

Feedback is a necessary component of the internship experience. At the heart of an internship is learning, and you can’t learn from the experience if you don’t receive feedback – both positive and constructive – on your performance.

Feedback is tricky, especially constructive feedback. I remember as an undergraduate orientation leader going through several training sessions on giving and receiving feedback. We were even forced to give both positive and constructive feedback to our peers during one meeting just to practice. While the positive was easy, the constructive was not. Who wants to hear what they’re not doing well, and who wants to be the one to say it?

Learning to gracefully accept constructive feedback during your internship is a key skill to gain. Here are some ways to get there:

  • Listen. Listen without comment. Ask questions if you need some clarification. While it’s natural to get defensive, don’t go there. Rarely is feedback given perfectly – few of us our trained in how to give feedback well. And even if someone is trained, it’s still hard to get it right every time. Feedback might get to you emotionally, but this doesn’t mean that it’s bad – likely, it means that it has hit a real issue. Try your best to thank the person for the feedback, and consider it a gift intended to help you grow professionally.
  • Use the Feedback in a Positive Way. First, you may need some time recognize and/or validate the message for yourself. Make note of the feedback and spend a couple of days monitoring your behavior and others’ reactions to it. Do you observe what the feedback giver has observed? From there, work on whatever it is you need to work on. You might even wish to seek support from a co-worker as you make the changes, such as asking him/her to remind you if you start slipping up. As you change, though, don’t assume that you’re now perfect. Assess your work by following up on the feedback. Keep the discussion going by asking what more you could be doing to improve. However…
  • Don’t Dwell on the Negative. Once you have heard the message, considered it, and taken steps towards better practices, move on. Don’t carry around resentment or hurt feelings. Find ways to be good to yourself outside of the workplace: go out for dinner, participate in an activity you enjoy, etc. Have a support system outside of work to help you maintain a sense of balance in your life.

When receiving constructive feedback, it can be all too easy to get angry and to overreact. Resist the urge to do this, though. Receiving feedback is a major way of knowing whether or not you are growing as a professional. If you react negatively, people will be reluctant to provide feedback to you in the future and you might miss out on valuable professional development as a result.

Question:

What constructive feedback have you received at work, at an internship, or in the classroom? How did you work with the feedback you were given?

Photo by woodley wonderworks