I found a cable today whilst doing my daily room-surveys which I have never seen before. I am four weeks into my internship, and- before this happened- I felt like I was finally beginning to learn the terminology and the technology that accompanied my job. However, this incident allowed doubts to once again flood my mind.
Call me dramatic, but this singular oddly shaped cable made me feel so inadequate that all the emotions I had felt on my first day resurfaced.
That first day that I met the other interns, I was terrified. And not terrified in the routine “I am quite nervous” sense. No, I was terrified in the “I have had 4 coffees in the past hour, and I can hear colours” sense. I couldn’t pinpoint the reason for my nerves; but as other interns began to fill the room, I could feel my legs begin to twitch and shake restlessly. Why was this happening to me? I had spent this entire past semester on placement already, so I couldn’t put it down to inexperience with these situations. The coffee was a big factor of course, but I knew that it wasn’t the root of my troubles. So, what was it? I racked my brain, but it was only when the phrase “imposter syndrome” was mentioned that I could identify the culprit.
I know I am not alone in feeling the effects of imposter syndrome within my internship. When the phrase was explained, an audible murmur filled the room from what I can only assume as similar-minded individuals who were in the exact same position as me. Imposter syndrome is the fear of being discovered as a fraud; a fear that others know more than you do and that you are thus underqualified for your job. A feeling that I (and many others around me) have felt at multiple points in my life. We were told of course, that there was a reason we were chosen for the jobs we had. We were all more than qualified and- as cheesy as it sounds- just needed to begin believing in ourselves.
However, listening is one thing, but practicing this belief is something entirely different.
Most of the internship positions as far as I know require working at a desk, attending meetings and copious interaction with fellow colleagues. It’s this concept of interacting with employees who have more experience than us which evokes these feelings of inadequacy. And for the most part, these doubts dissipate as interns settle into their surroundings. However, my internship follows a slightly different pattern. I am the Learning Spaces Development Intern – which entails surveying all the audio and visual technology present throughout all the different university rooms on campus. My internship takes me from Western General Hospital all the way out to Easterbush, and everywhere in-between. But my degree was never anything to do with audio and visual technology… I study architecture and the most technologically oriented thing I have done so far is calculate the tensile strengths of steel beams. So instead of the 9-5 office environment being the catalyst for imposter syndrome, my fears stem from the disconnect between my job and my degree.
So, what do you do when your internship is nothing like your degree?
Throughout this process the phrase “make the most of your internship” has been repeated on many occasions. Workshops, focus groups, lectures, events… I have been to them all, and the skills that I have learnt have been incredibly useful in developing me further in both my personal life and professional career. But the worries persist: “how can my degree knowledge help me in this internship?” “how can this internship help me in my degree?” The truth is, I am still trying to work that out myself. I have started to keep a sketchbook of some of my favourite rooms that I have visited. I’m using it to try out different styles, techniques and to keep a log of details that I find particularly interesting for future use. Although it’s not much, the small push I have made towards starting this sketchbook has made this internship feel more like my own. I have learnt that by taking an active step towards making use out of an experience which is perceived to be unrelated, I can finally begin to feel like I am qualified and belong in this internship.
And as for the cable? Well… I still don’t know what on earth it does.