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Lessons of a Lifetime – An HR Summer Internship Experience

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The sun slowly set in as I stepped out of the college premises. I turned back and shot a glance at the building. Students were laughing and seemed happy. It was the last day of our first year in college. siescomsThis day I call the last, because by the time we returned for the next and the final year most of us would be in separate classes, as per our specializations. Some would still hang on to their friends, some would find new ones. Amidst all these thoughts, I realized I was actually stepping out into a different world that existed outside college. It was time for our Summer Internships!

I woke up at 6.00am the next day with anxiety building inside me. I took out my best formals, dressed up carefully, trying my best to look ‘professional’, as that’s what I was expected to be for the next two months. The company I interned with, Ugam Solutions Pvt.Ltd., dealt with market research, providing online retailers with business solutions, pricing strategies and advertisement support. As a budding HR, I was part of the Talent Sourcing team. When I entered the office premises, I met my ‘to be’ manager – Mr. Rajesh Agrawal. We had an initial briefing about the work I had to do as an Intern. He said, “I want you to design an assessment centre for our organisation. That will involve you to first identify the competencies of the given role.” Yes, I know what you are thinking of. My reaction to that statement was exactly the same. BLANK!

To begin with, I am a B.Com student specialized in accounting and finance. An inner drive that made me take HR was my love towards psychology – knowing, understanding and reading people’s behaviour. HR was new to me but it took me little time to understand that all of it was common sense used at the required time. So words like assessment centre and competency felt Hebrew to me. But if I ended up telling my manager ‘yes, I’ll do it’, just not to make a fool out of myself, I would’ve ruined my two months of corporate exposure.

So here’s the first lesson I learnt:

1)      Acceptance – If you know it, you know it. If you don’t, you just don’t. Accept it. Don’t fake what you don’t know.

The initial 20 days was a self-learning phase. My system was placed exactly next to the manager’s seat. He and I would search on topics related to my project, discuss and understand the theoretical part of it. Then came the practical part. Every position in a company has a description containing roles and responsibilities a person should exhibit. In order to exhibit these, the person would require certain knowledge, skills and abilities which are broadly termed as competencies. My job was to find these competencies and a way to assess them.

Executing this for all the positions across locations would have taken months together. Hence, I was asked to target a part of the major work Ugam does, ‘The Editorial’. It deals with writing product descriptions, advertisements and tips for its international clients. I created a plan as to how to go about it. Scheduled meetings with each and every person in the editorial team across locations – Goregaon, Thane and Mahalakshmi, including the managers of the teams and the concerned HRs, who hired for the team.siescoms

When I submitted the results of the meetings to the HR manager, it got rejected and I was asked to perform the task all over again. It didn’t stop at that, eventually, it got rejected again and I had to perform exactly the same task thrice.

Now, comes the next lesson:

2)      Rejection – ‘Your’ thinking of what is right need not necessarily match your superior’s thinking and expectations. They might reject you till they get what they want. But on the positive side – I got it perfectly right the third time 🙂

With all these lessons being learnt side by side, I encountered my first problem there. People in my team did not accept me as a part of their organisation. To them, I was like a visitor who would leave in a few days. They hardly noticed me and at times I felt invisible. The HR at Ugam usually holds a book review meeting when any new book on HR is published, to enable knowledge sharing. It was during this time that a book called “Don’t hire the best” was released. One fine day, when I entered the office, everyone had their heads dug into this book as it was the book review day. I was curious what this book was all about and how the review happened. Judging from its name, I thought that it may somewhere help me in my project. Unfortunately, I wasn’t invited to be a part of the review team. A minute later, the CTO (Chief Talent Officer) of Ugam entered the cabin. I thought for a moment and headed straight to him and asked him if I could be a part of this review. With a shocking look, people all around stared at me. The CTO, a tough one in nature did not speak to anyone he did not know. But when I approached him, he readily handed me a copy of the book and asked me to be a part of the review. And thereby I got noticed by all. Of course, the review helped me a lot in my project.

And here comes lesson no. 3:

3)       Take Initiatives – Your willingness to learn and your attitude towards being a part of the team will surely get you noticed.

These two months taught me a lot more than what the negative aspects of my experience did. The duration, where in I went unnoticed, I was lonely. My teammates hardly interacted with me. They stuck to their work and to their group of friends. None of them bothered to make me feel comfortable, including my manager. This led to low motivation and I had to literally draw inner motivation every day. During lunch and tea breaks, I used to be all by myself. If I initiated a conversation, they would answer me and get back to what they were doing, leaving me with my thoughts. And that’s when I learnt my final lesson there and that is:

Your college life will always rock. No matter where you have reached, which position you are in – you will always be reminded of these days. So make the most of it 🙂

All the best..!

siescoms     By

    Sowmya Subramaniyan

    PGDM 2012-14

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