It can be a challenge to find your bearings as an intern, even more so in the ever-changing environment offered by the tech industry. When I joined Fabric as a UX intern I wondered how I could build on my skills to reach the same standard as those who have been in the industry for 20+ years. How could I get up to speed and make myself relevant in an industry that evolves so quickly. As an intern, your skillset is extremely malleable, making it easier to adapt to change - use this to your advantage. Be self-aware, shape your skills early to get in the game faster.
When we leave school boundaries no longer define what or how we should learn. We are exposed to endless growth and development opportunities. This sounds great in principle, but if there’s nothing to guide us in the right direction it's easy to get lost. With so much to learn you shouldn't waste time acquiring skills that don’t benefit your work. Take time to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses and identify how you can invest your time learning what is most useful to you. You can choose to build on your strengths and have a focused skill set, or improve your weaknesses and become more rounded as a professional. Define your own boundaries and calibrate them to suit your career vision to stay on track.
To fail fast is to determine if something has value earlier rather than later. This methodology is commonly used in start-ups to help them stay lean and reduce financial risk. When you embrace the fail fast philosophy, you build your skills incrementally and lower the risk of doing stuff that doesn’t matter. Seeking feedback early will help you determine whether you are on the right track and stop you from investing time into nonessentials. Failing fast is commonly seen to increase the probability of eventual success as vital and relevant knowledge is gained from each failed attempt.
We usually only receive feedback as a consequence of failure, so it’s easy to associate it with negativity. It’s time to remove the stigma associated with feedback and start embracing constructive comments with a growth mindset. Skills are malleable abilities that can be improved, feedback should celebrate our accomplishments and pave the way for many more to come.
Making feedback a common part of your routine will have a profound influence on your career development, so seek it soon and seek it often. Actively seek feedback on your own accord, this should be both formal and informal. I recommend scheduling a monthly 1-1 feedback meeting with your manager to touch base on your progress. You should also make a conscious effort to ask your peers for feedback during day-to-day encounters. For example, you can ask your peers at lunch for feedback on that presentation or ask them in the Uber about your performance on the job you’ve come from.
For feedback to be useful you must make it actionable. To do this you must analyse your feedback and identify your strengths and weaknesses, then strategise ways to improve. A useful strategy is to create SMART goals, these are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Prioritise what goals are most important and make sure it’s relative to your career trajectory. Define how you are going to achieve these goals and start engaging in activities to do so. Estimate the time it should take to achieve them and set realistic expectations for yourself. Write your goals down and return to them on a monthly basis during your 1-1 catch up with your manager, doing so will help make your goals visible and force you to be accountable for your progress.
Realising the importance of feedback has played a pivotal role in how I have progressed as an Experience Designer in the IT industry. It’s allowed me to focus my energy and understand what I should be investing time into in order to build a skill set relevant to my career goals. What did you find the most important during your internship?
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