12 months ago I wrote a short article on how to survive as an intern. Having now graduated, I thought I’d share a few lessons on how to make the most of your internship and deal with all the workplace politics that come along with it.
The biggest point to take home is that you are now in a complex and political workplace, with lots of layers and connections. You have entered into a marathon that part time work or uni have not prepared you for. Knowing this will help immensely as you intentionally build a reputation and relationships based on the decisions you make and things you say.
- Understand that everyone has an agenda. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as you know where you fit in that picture. For some paramedics their agenda is to simply make it through the day doing as little work as possible; as a keen intern you’re a pain in the butt.
Others will want to do the best job they can and get home to their families, so they’re probably willing to teach you. Where it gets more complicated is when you have people who have images to maintain, goals to achieve, insecurities to manage, timelines to meet or simply boredom to kill. These are the ones you need to identify and work around.
That CSO or manager who neglects you may just be too busy to deliver what they promised, so it’s ok to remind them….. on the other hand they may be using you as an example of something. It’s your job to work out which and play your cards accordingly.
Sometimes people will attack you or help you intentionally. Other times you are merely a pawn in their long term scheme.
Remember, when staff members are seemingly nice yet continually obstructive, or someone requests to work with interns but then doesn’t seem overly helpful, ask yourself; is this person just an ass…… or do they have plan.
- Don’t trust anyone until they’ve proved it three times over. Surviving as an intern is all about the contacts and friends you make; good and bad. People will lie about you. People will also defend you. Build your allies, manage your enemies and keep a close eye on everyone in between. Remember, you’re going to be in this work place for years, maybe decades. Don’t be spineless or you’ll be trampled. Don’t use pain when honey will do.
- Know yourself. Know what you believe in, what you’re willing to compromise on and what you’re not. Doing this will help you stand when you need to (and earn respect for it) and when to let things go through to the keeper. Recognise when you need to take leave (and please please please take leave, don’t burn yourself out with overtime). Know that you can withstand the 12-24 months of crap that comes with being an intern. You got through uni and into this job. You wouldn’t have got this far if you couldn’t do it.
- Intentionally build a working relationship with other agencies. This means the hospital, the police, the fireys, whoever. Scratch their back, and they scratch yours. Build a good reputation and it will reward you a thousand times over. It doesn’t have to be a perfect relationship (there will always be people who frustrate you, or make bad decisions), but having that collateral behind you will mean they’ll forgive you when you screw up, listen when you object about something and maybe even magically find you a bed when nobody else can.
The truth is poor intern, that you cannot make everyone happy. Some people will simply not like you no matter what you do. You may be bullied simply because you’re a new grad. But great people often polarise; as the future of the industry you threaten people if you contribute to change….. and if you don’t. You encourage people who with to learn and keep their skills up….. and embarrass and expose the incompetence of those who don’t. You’ll be the pawn in someone’s game, and the ally to someone else ambition.
So study hard, choose your friends carefully and give no one a chance to speak poorly of you. For when people try and bring you down you will have an answer for their face, and friends to speak behind your back.