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Learning from the intern

Categories: Career, Hacking Life, The Juggle, Uncategorized


My department has a summer intern with us right now, and he is so earnest. So enthusiastic. So smart. He’s eager to get to work each day, fired up in anticipation of whatever assignment will fall to him that morning. He has pithy, inspirational statements, penned in red and black on 4-by-6-inch note cards, pinned up on the walls of his cube. Nothing “Jack Handy”-ish — none of that “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, dogonne it, people like me” stuff that gets parodied on comedy shows. Just the stuff the rest of us learned in school, stuff that applies to our trade, stuff that we assume we know but probably need to remember.

When did the rest of us stop being like that?

I have worked for my main employer for 16 years, but I know that when I first came on board, as a fresh-out-of-college kid who was in love with the industry, I was like that. Eager, hungry, willing to do whatever was asked of me, reveling in the new experiences rather than stressing about supporting my family. He’s not worrying about whether he’s appreciated by his company; he’s concerned with doing his best work every day, so that each opportunity leads to something more.

My career advice to my younger self reflects some of my current burnout, I think. And, to be brutally honest, our intern’s enthusiasm highlights it even more. But if he wasn’t spending the summer here, doing chirpy phone interviews and blessing everyone who sneezes, I wouldn’t be aware of how far I’ve traveled from that old ideal — or how my career might be better if I tried to recapture some of it.

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2 comments so far...

  • Well, I don’t think there is anything wrong with slowing down and mellowing out as you get older. Ever watched cows and calves on a farm? Horses and foals? dogs and puppies? All that energy for quick work and rapid transitions naturally gives way to the wisdom of looking before you leap, and the confidence that experience will carry us through.

    I used to prepare for at least an hour before each conference call. I was going to know my stuff, and never be caught off guard. (I was deathly afraid of appearing stupid or foolish.) Eventually I had so much work and so many calls, I could prepare less and less, and finally I learned that “winging it” usually works. I learned to take my time to give logical (not brilliant) answers, and to say “I will look into that and get back to you” without sounding completely clueless. And I have less stress in my work life.

    How can you not do this when your book of business is constantly increasing, you have more and more underlings reporting to you (with all their issues), you are expected to remain at least somewhat cognizant of the latest developments in your field, your family is growing, your parents are aging, and your body is punishing you more and more every year?

    More power to the interns. But I would NOT want to be one ever again. No thank you.

    SKL  |  July 23rd, 2010 at 4:53 pm

  • I feel the exact. Same. Way. Except that we don’t have an intern - just lots of newbies to the service, every day.

    I have become the Crusty Old Sergeant.


    Phe  |  July 28th, 2010 at 11:31 am