It should very much go without saying that remaining professional during an internship is extremely important to exiting the position in high regards (and with excellent reference letters). Most of this is pretty easy and self-explanatory such as wearing appropriate clothing, minding your manners and not falling asleep at your desk. However, there are definitely aspects of a professional work environment that can be intimidating the first time you experience them. I bring this up because I was recently evaluated at the Aquarium by my supervisor. She is an example of something that intimidates me at my workplace. Don’t get me wrong, she’s lovely and we get along very well, but she’s really good at her job. She’s so exemplary as a Floor Manager in Visitor Education that I find my anxiety increases a little bit in her presence. This means I crack a lot of jokes during our conversations to make myself feel more at ease. The other day I sent her an email to ask her a question and I told her I hoped her week was going “swimmingly”.
Back to the evaluation, though. She came to visit me at one of the touch tanks to see how well I was interacting with the visitors, answering questions, etc. I did my best to go about my job as if she wasn’t there, she took notes and then scheduled a meeting with me later in the day. I feel like I should mention here that being evaluated doesn’t mean you did something wrong and now someone has to come inspect you. Most employers attentive with professional development will provide you with regular feedback. Anyways, we sat down and went over the notes she took in a constructive way. The most important part for me in this situation is to be open-minded, ask for clarification and to make sure my supervisor knows that I am interested in hearing how I can be a better member of the Visitor Education team.
I came into the meeting expecting some sort of negative feedback (everyone gets this from time-to-time, it’s meant to help). However, besides some suggestions on how to word phrases, I didn’t receive much. I actually found this a little frustrating, especially since I know that other staff who mentor me must give her their input, as well. Last week, I did my first Live Animal Presentation on my own and didn’t get certified (certification happens when one has mastered a presentation), but I also didn’t get a lot to work on besides, “be less nervous.” I decided not to keep this frustration to myself and let my supervisor know that I was looking for more specific feedback. Although I was initially reluctant to bring the situation up (we tend to avoid ones that seem even the least bit uncomfortable), it ended up being the best case scenario. A few days later I received a lengthy, but encouraging, email detailing some valid points about the flow and volume of my presentation with specific ideas on how I can work to improve these aspects.
Dear readers, if you take one thing away from this post, the most simple of them is that an inquisitive nature helps us become more comfortable in professional settings, so ask away!
An example of me being professional while trying to teach people how to touch sharks.
P.S. If you weren’t sure about what fish pun I was talking about, it was “pro-fish-ionalism”. You’re welcome.