For some of us, the first step into the adult world resembles stepping on a booby-trapped doorway into a different universe; suddenly, you’re falling down a rabbit-hole, but nowhere near as gracefully as Alice when she tumbled into her Wonderland. For us, it’s cuts, bruises, headaches and too many mistakes. For instance, my Chick-fil-A employment highlights include dropping an ice bin on the foot of an unsuspecting coworker, spilling 12 or so quarts of lemonade on the floor and knocking a nozzle off a sweet tea bin, sending a crisp shot of sweet tea directly into my eyes. Let’s face the facts: When taking the daunting step of an internship into the adult world, it’s easy to let the fear of being clueless consume you, which usually leads to making a fool of yourself. Rest assured, you’re not alone.
Florida State University senior Andrew Gallagher told of his exhausting event planning internship over the summer, and how his lack of sleep led to disasters on the job. “It was my first week of being an events intern,” Gallagher said. “And I was told Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of my second week would revolve around me waking up at 4 a.m. each day and going to bed at 2 a.m. I was terrified. I thought event planning was my dream role, but if I was going to just be thrown into something like this, maybe it wasn’t.”
As a college senior, I empathize with Gallagher’s fears. I think my mantra for the year has been, “I’m just not ready to leave college.” When push comes to shove, students are used to reading about their dream jobs in books and watching them in movies, not enacting them in real life. This terror comes from the pressure of finding out if you’ve got what it takes to turn that “A” in anatomy into a prolific career as a doctor. Watching the sunrise without having gone to sleep will inevitably catch up to you, causing goofs that happen to the best of us.
“Each day got more difficult to keep my eyes open,” Gallagher said. “We hosted an event and my boss asked me to go collect vendor’s payments, so sleepier than usual, I made my way around to each table. I tripped and pulled three tablecloths off a table causing all the glasses to break. Needless to say I wasn’t in trouble, just mortified.”
We feel you, Gallagher. We hope you got some more sleep in you–or at least a good cup of coffee.
Even when we’ve gotten a solid seven hours of sleep (let’s be real–who really gets eight anymore?), we’re more likely to make weird decisions under pressure. I like to think of it as a “panic blackout;” something Florida State University alum Alyssa Wilson experienced her first week at her new job.
“For some reason, I was getting the Loan Share Report through my email–I have no idea why, but hey, I was happy to be getting emails,” Wilson said. When the man who sent out the report included the riveting information that it was Gandhi’s birthday, Wilson became inspired. “I found a picture on Google of him with his quote that I love…[So] I attached the image and hit send. Long story short, I hit reply all instead of reply…turns out I sent it to all of senior management, directors and managers.”
While we might find it hilarious that Wilson sent Gandhi’s face to a board of bank professionals, Wilson found it mortifying. “I don’t know why I did this. I cringe every time I think about it,” she said.
Like Wilson, Florida State University senior Tolu Atanda said what seemed like a trivial mix-up turned calamitous during the first week of her internship. “When I interned for Travelers Insurance, I had to travel back and forth to the Orlando office,” said Atanda. “One day, I checked my calendar and saw that I was supposed to be in Orlando. I drove two hours all the way to Orlando only to learn that I was not supposed to be there that day because they changed the calendar, and I hadn’t updated mine. I ran into the HR guy and literally thought he was going to fire me on the spot. He was actually really understanding and let me slide.”
In Atanda’s case, there was no panic induced weirdness or exhaustion induced ineptness, just a simple error from a lack of foresight. Sometimes, the best way to learn something is to screw it up; Atanda will never forget to update her calendar again.
Here’s the thing: Whether you’re as clumsy as Gallagher, panic as hard as Wilson or simply don’t realize you need to update your calendar like Atanda, your silly mistakes in the learning process of an internship don’t define you. So take a deep breath, put on a pair of your best adult pants and push through because making a mistake doesn’t mean you’re bad at what you do.
Despite the many times I’ve put the ice cream machine together incorrectly at Chick-fil-A, sending goopy puddles of creamy vanilla sweetness onto the floor, I’ve been promoted to shift leader because I looked at my mistake, said “Oops. Better try again!” and fixed the problem. At the end of the day, you’ll look back at your budding professional-self and laugh at all the dumb mistakes you made. And of course, you’ll be holding stacks of hard earned money while you do it.