October 15, 2015

I Learned How to Pick Better Experiences So You Don't Have to

My first apprenticeship was not the right fit for me and it ended, on mutual terms, two weeks after it started.

I learned a lot from the experience and will use that knowledge moving forward. I want to share my thoughts on picking the right apprenticeship. These principles can apply to any new partnership, consulting position, internship or job.

  1. Put Yourself First: A host company is only bringing you into their network if they believe you’ll benefit their long-term success. You’re the only person that can put your learning goals and needs first. You want to understand what assets both sides bring to the table.
  2. Be Specific About Your Needs: Communicate the things you need in this relationship. If they’re unwilling to address your needs initially, that likely won't change.
  3. Your Supervisor is More Important Than Your Company: Figure out the relationship with your supervisor heading into the apprenticeship. A boss’ interest in an employee’s work is perhaps the most important part of a job. Make sure your supervisor wants to guide you through the apprenticeship.
  4. Understand the Daily Process: Ask the following questions. What’s the office culture like? Do people interact with fellow co-workers frequently? What are the expectations for my time? What are the working hours? How will I receive feedback? How much autonomy will I have?
  5. Contact Other People in the Company: This is a trick I learned from my friends who work in local television news—if a news director is a tyrant, reporters will tell you. Ask around to make sure that your boss is not a tyrant.
  6. Trust Your Instincts: If something doesn’t feel right in the interview process, press for answers about your concerns. If they don't have the answers, make sure you are okay with that going in.
  7. Ask Why They’re Interested in You: Verify that your potential host company does its initial research on you. You want them to value what you bring to the company and make sure that they aren't just hoping to fill a random position.
  8. Create Personal Time: If you’re burned out, stressed and exhausted, then you will not be in a mind frame to learn a lot.
  9. Change Course (Quickly): If the situation is not working for you, be willing to speak up early and make a plan with your supervisor. If it’s still a bad situation, be willing to leave. Remember to “put yourself first.”
  10. Don’t Force an Apprenticeship: You have a strong community of support, and you can always employ your own curiosity. Don’t take something just because you’re afraid of being left behind. There are lot of teachers in the world and a lot of ways to gain experience.

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