Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Expectation vs Reality

This summer’s internship search and find was for me, as it was for most of my fellow peers, a very formal and structured process. A resume was sent, a message of interest was received, an interview was scheduled, and a job was landed. Judging by this method, it seemed that the company really had its processes in place and knew how and when to allocate resources. Coming from a relatively inexperienced stand point, I was surprised to find out that businesses are not always as structured as one would think; at least that was my case. I expected to sit at a desk and be handed a bunch of materials with deadlines and instructions on what to complete and how to complete it. I was wrong.

Instead, in my internship, I’ve been sitting side by the side with the CEO every day and observing what she does, constantly taking on tasks that she thinks can be delegated to me. These tasks range from making phone calls, sending emails, editing the website, and most of all cleaning up and editing financial statements and the business plan for a hopeful acquisition by another company. This sounds hectic and unplanned, one might think, but that is business. In top management, there is no detailed day-to-day plan. There is no set schedule, and there is no knowing exactly what will happen everyday. Of course there is always a general direction that is headed towards, and there are set goals that need to be met; but these only serve as bases for making decisions. The rest is indeterminable.

This phenomenon is even more dominant in small businesses, such as the one I am interning in. Since so much work has to be done by so little people, every employee including myself finds that they are doing tasks way outside of their job description. The IT guy makes a sales call. The accountant writes a letter to a loyal client. The CEO submits a post on the companies blog. And the company is extremely successful! This has been the most exciting thing for me to learn. Since everyone in the company knows a little bit about everything, their respect for one another’s core jobs is immense; they understand what it is like to request something from another employee because they’ve probably had the same thing requested in the past. And like this, the whole team moves forward.

I know that this is not typical of bigger companies, since structure is what holds them together. In fact, I interned at AB Inbev earlier this year and I can most definitely confirm that things don’t work this way there. I find it fascinating that the small company atmosphere, in which everyone is involved in all processes, is effective. There are so many ways of handling businesses. There are different kinds of businesses, different styles, different methods. My lesson is that business is art.