Inside the Matrix
When I first committed to the IIB program I wasn’t still sure about what really an internship was. I had some years of working experience back home, but nothing that could be called similar to what I am doing right now. I must admit that even though I have a passion for finance, I had never worked in a strictly Financial firm before. The opportunity this program gave me was unique in this way.
The internship experience started way before moving to New York. Searching for job-offer, working on my resume, polishing my online profiles, having mock interviews, was actually the beginning of it. It was not much different from a regular class, but as time passed, stress started rising. Deadlines get everybody nervous, even more when we depend on others.
Finally, one day you realize that your first 8 weeks have finished, that you are moving to New York City, and most important of all, you have your (so-difficult-to-get) internship, and at Wall Street! First weekend in the city went as fast as any, but luckily, I had some time to get to know a couple of grocery shops around and could understand the basics of transportation. Then Monday comes, and the fun begins!
To generalize a bit and not bore you with Finance jargon, I would say that, contrary to my expectations, an internship is much more about learning that about actually working. Don’t get me wrong, everyone does things, handles tasks and projects, but the most important aspect is the learning. For that you need to be self-motivated, that is why is incredible important that you choose an internship on a field you feel passion for.
During my first week I was given very little to do, but I invested my free time in relating with everyone in the office, getting to know what they do and their needs. Soon after that, I was helping with many small projects, which were the entrance gate to the real staff. Being proactive is a great quality, but a word on your resume isn’t enough, it needs to be applied. So if you think you can solve someone else’s problems or add value to a task, don’t hesitate to send an e-mail about it or offer your ideas to your co-workers. This might be your best tool to gain confidence and be assigned those cool projects you had in mind when accepting the job-offer.
I guess everyone finds a different way to make things work, but some tips always help. My humble advice is to be organized. Even if you are a mess, you will need to set up a system to keep track of everything happening. My solution, a spreadsheet. There I have a different sheet for Ongoing Projects, Own Ideas / Proposals, Messages (yes, there is no way to avoid answering phones), and I even have one for Mistakes. This combined with a notepad, helped me to keep on tracks when things were faster than what my head could process or remember.
After 6 weeks here, I feel like at home. I still have free time and answer phones, but I get really cool things to do as well. On top of that, seeing that your ideas get put into practice is quite satisfactory too.
As you might have heard, the responsibility for how good your internship experience is completely yours. Learning and making connections is possible every day, you just need to go for it. This being said, I must stress that I was never left “on my own”. Friends, family and most important program supervisors where (and still are) every time I have a need or a problem. That is why I didn’t want to end this post without thanking them!