Internship and working during COVID-19: Changes, virtual meetings, and plenty of self-discipline
A different stint
"Be honest," my editor tells me over Whatsapp, "It would be interesting to know what it was really like." What she doesn't know is that I've been sitting at my desk for the past hour trying to piece together the right things to conclude my internship experience during a global pandemic. It's my last week and I'm treating this as a kind of checkpoint to relive the hours I've spent at work/home rushing for deadlines, scouring the web for tons of images, and even finding the right kind of rug for your stylish home (who knew there could be so many?) So, where do I really begin?
Virtually (in every sense of the word), my internship experience has been nothing short of fun and fulfilling. But there's definitely been some ups and downs along the way. That's not to say that I don't recognise my privilege. Securing an internship is difficult during a pandemic, and I'm incredibly lucky to have had the experience at a publishing house, despite the COVID-19 situation worsening across the world. A quick coffee chat with several other friends revealed that they'd been cut from their internships that they'd been looking forward to, ensuing months of clearing their Netflix recommendation backlog instead of gaining work experience.
I, unfortunately, didn't get to do the whole "first day of work" commemoration on my Instagram stories. It was far less glamorous than having to walk into a new office in my 'first-day' outfit that I'd planned a little too early in advance. Instead, I was greeted by my editors on a computer screen, while I sat at my study table in my bedroom, in an office-friendly top and pajama bottoms, as they carefully broke down my tasks for me.
And as far as virtual first meets go, meeting your new bosses over a video call is definitely less anxiety-inducing than it would be in real life, but there's also the awkwardness to overcome on both ends with technical difficulties constantly in the way. But thankfully, I was working with a team of talented, tech-savvy individuals who knew how to troubleshoot anything and everything.
I had come to understand that when working in a small team, I really had to pull my weight. As I began more accustomed to the CMS processes and also, the tone and style of Buro. Singapore, my workload gradually got heavier, and that really pushed me to challenge myself with time-management and self-discipline. For those who know, working from home is a double-edged sword. You get to enjoy the convenience of getting up from bed and going straight to work on your laptop, but it's just as easy to climb back into bed and enjoy a midday nap. Without a supervisor around to keep tabs on you in the office, self-discipline is the biggest factor in getting your work done. And it's self-discipline that gets thrown out the window when you see just how inviting your bed looks. I'm glad to report that I ultimately won the battle against all that temptation.
My internship journey had its own communication perils. If anything, it has taught me to be more adept at reading between the lines (or rather, the Whatsapp texts that come in every now and then, but I'm not complaining). With no facial expressions to study and no face-to-face interactions, every text and email can be easily overanalysed. Sometimes you don't do a perfect job and you go through the nerve-wracking process of "xxx is typing", but at the end of the day — it was constructive feedback and at times, praise and encouragement. So quite a few of the mental stressors can end up being all in your head.
It goes without saying, but time management is another major factor in determining how quickly and how well your work is done. I found myself being unable to draw the line between work and play. Lunchtime was really just enough to squeeze in a quick nap and a snack to keep me going, while other "productivity breaks" were really just used to check my social media handles. I didn't exactly know how to draw the line between work and play, and sometimes I'd find myself working well past midnight. I was learning the ropes remotely, without someone to tell me it was time to head home at the same time everyday. So when things started to pick up after Phase 2 of the circuit breaker, where I was helping out at shoots and going for tastings, I was glad I had a reason to swap out my pajama bottoms for something more stylish. I also appreciated the face-time with other industry folk, which according to my editor, was part of the experience on the editorial team.
While things haven't officially come to an end just yet, I'm immensely thankful for the opportunity to work with superiors who know how to put in their best effort. The same people who are, like me, trying to adjust themselves in the midst of working remotely while mentoring the newbies that are looking to them for guidance.
So between the awkward video calls, the frustrating technical difficulties, the sometimes-cryptic Whatsapp messages, and the late nights spent churning content, my internship during COVID-19 turned out teaching me how to value genuine human connections and develop people skills, more so than I'd ever expect.