Internships don’t teach you business as much as they do human interaction.
This summer I made an internship in Vienna and it was extremely insightful. Not because I partied – which isn’t what I usually do anyways – and also not because I went sightseeing. The most shaping part were the experiences. Now you might think that working for a company gives you working experience, which is the main thing to care about when going into an internship. However, that’s not quite true. One of the most important things in this whole time was not compliance – or better the lack of it.
It also wasn’t what I learned about company processes and how to optimize results. No, it was objective observation of oneself and human interaction. I’m not even just talking about connecting with colleagues and the CEO. I’m talking about the most fundamental thing we always try to achieve when devouring all those business books or biographies and watching videos of Gary Vaynerchuk all day.
We try to get a piece of life experience of others in order to enrich our own character – to get an objective view on ourselves and to grasp a bit of self-consciousness for a second. I do both, reading books and going out in the world, but I’ve come to learn that connecting with people and consuming content are not mutually exclusive. They depend on each other. You can read all the business books you want, but in order to really get to the punchline, you have to go out.
Using practice in combination with a good amount of theory is not only a good pattern for studying for your next exam, but it is essential for developing the skills you always read about. In this article I’m going to share with you some important aspects I learned throughout my internship.
The beginning is hard, and this is good.
Even if you don’t see it first, one of the most important aspects of getting out of your comfort zone is that it is uncomfortable, and that’s good. Being uncomfortable means that you are facing a situation you don’t usually have to deal with or you usually don’t want to deal with. Learning this is what makes you more adaptive and gets you used to change. In the end, this is what this is all about: change – In one or the other way.
Maybe you are not even feeling uncomfortable. If not, you have to find out why. If you feel comfortable because you managed to quickly adapt to the situation, great. Kudos to you. This only happened to me once, when I first came to the US. After buying my flight ticket spontaneously and flying for 9 hours around the globe, I finally arrived at my hotel in New York City at around 11 pm. After I woke up the next morning, everything just worked without me even trying. I felt like I came home and I didn’t even know why. Trust me, this is rare. If it happens, you really found something you like!
Uncomfortable is the new comfortable.
If you don’t feel uncomfortable and at the same time don’t feel like you adapted to the situation, make sure you didn’t bring too much of your comfort zone with you. This is one major mistake people do all the time. They travel to a different country, but pretty much take all of their comfort zone with them. That’s maybe okay if you move there because of other reasons than culture, but definitely not when being somewhere temporarily.
Of course, it is nice to have your cozy blanket you used to sleep in for the past 10 years, the alarm clock you love so much and exactly the same posters on the walls like back home, but hear me out. I will just make a wild guess here: If you’re that far into this article, you probably read something that made you think about your beloved comfort zone and if it makes sense. Getting out of your comfort zone is like planting a seed. It will probably take some time to grow. Maybe you don’t even know for sure how the tree will look like, but there will definitely grow something if you care about it.
Be patient and stop comparing.
Well, you could’ve expected that, could you? Internships maybe teach you a very shallow part of patience, like waiting for work. However, if you dig deeper into that feeling you can find out that patience always follows action. You have to take action and then use your patience skill. Don’t just be patient all your life. Let me tell you this as one of the most impatient people I know.
“Yes, but Mark Zuckerberg is only 32 and a multi-billionaire!”
Stop. Stop doing that for your happiness’ sake. The grass will always look greener on the other side. I guess Mark Zuckerberg also wouldn’t feel good when he would compare his fighting skills with Bruce Lee every day.
“But that’s comparing different things! I want to be successful and have to compare myself with successful people.”
Well, no. You are leaving two important dimensions out of the equation: Time and Circumstances. First of all, don’t compare billionaires in their current state with you. Mark Zuckerberg is a very different person with his 56 billion Dollar fortune than he was before. You have to ask yourself some very important questions. Don’t you think you would go through incredible change and personal development before reaching this kind of net worth? If you compare a dirty, unpolished piece of raw diamond to a polished one you see in a shop you will always feel bad. Does this make the unpolished diamond worse? No. It just needs some work in order to shine.
“I am just a regular person. I am nothing special” and why you shouldn’t care.
I heard this a million times and said it myself. Maybe you are, maybe you are not, but why does it matter? Who can be special nowadays anyways? Pretty much every business idea you can think of is already out there. For everything you can do, there will be somebody who can do it better. Who cares? It’s not about being academically proficient, it’s about your unique combination of mindset, skills and emotions that make you successful.
If Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs or all those people would have let themselves down because they thought they were nothing special, they would still be living in a garage, Africa or smoking pot on campus. Wanting to be special is like waiting for something good to happen to you. Go out and make the good happen yourself.
The second part of the equation you leave out is circumstance. Everybody has different circumstances. Some people grow up in very poor countries and become successful late in life. Some of them are lucky and find a mentor which makes them be successful earlier. Some people get lucky with finding business angels, some successful people had to work incredible hours because nobody believed in them.
There are a million steps on the journey, and I – just like you – try to figure them out right now. I don’t claim to be a billionaire entrepreneur, because I am not. I don’t have any “program” or “scheme”. There is no scheme or program that can help you, because you are the program and you are the scheme. You have to work on yourself. I just want to share what I learned so far, because I believe in the concept of growing by sharing experiences – and I mean real experiences. No polished, “how nice is my life” posts.
And this brings me to the last thing I learned:
Be honest to yourself.