What Doesn’t Kill You…
Before I started my great adventure at CBS, or so I imagined, I had about a month off to get prepared. Since I attended school as an international student, there were certain regulations I had to follow and documents I had to organize. As it usually goes with bureaucracy, difficulties arose, and I almost didn’t receive all necessary documents in time, fearing to lose the internship position. But thankfully, one day before the estimated beginning of the job, I was able to pick up everything I needed.
I was starting my internship on a Friday in January. That Thursday before, I went out with a girlfriend for dinner, trying to get distracted from my emerging nervousness. Unfortunately though, all the good Thai food we had didn’t calm me down one bit. I had a pretty sleepless night, waking up at least once every hour before my alarm rang. Feeling like a Zombie but trying to portray a motivated attitude, I made my way out of the door two hours before my orientation appointment in Santa Monica.
The heavy LA traffic that I was supposed to be stuck in three times a week from that point on didn’t lift me up either. But once I arrived at the HR offices and felt the cool vibe that was going on there, I felt a little better. Also, the people that held the orientation were super nice and friendly and made me feel comfortable. After an hour of listening and signing papers, I was sent off to drive to Television City located right in the middle of LA where the office I worked in was located.
During the 20-minute drive, I kept reminding me that everything will be fine, it was my first day, and that I was there to learn and nobody expected me to be perfect. Unfortunately, on that day I became my own worst enemy. Once I proceeded through the entry gate, parked my car, and was guided upstairs on the third floor where my work space was located, my nervousness resurfaced pretty strong. And the encounter with my boss as well as supervisor didn’t help that emotional stage. I instantly got the impression that something was off, but didn’t want to judge anything too soon.
I received a quick introduction and run-down of what I was supposed to do from now on before my supervisor took me around the lot to get my ID I had to use from now on to be able to access the studio and the building. I was beyond tired, but tried to remember every little detail she was telling me. Once we got back upstairs to our work spaces, I was directed to go over the intern information one more time, and then go on my lunch break. When I came back and my supervisor wasn’t there, I felt a little lost. And that was when things started to take a turn downwards for me.
At first, I had problems logging back in to my computer, due to a typo in my login information that was provided to me. After a couple minutes of trying, I finally figured it out and was able to access my computer. Puh, first small challenge survived. I checked my emails and saw that my supervisor had asked me to do the table of contents for that day’s press clips. She had attached a template of how to do it, and so I instantly got on the task. It probably took me an hour to finish it, with my supervisor asking several times when I would be done. That and the fact that I made a lot of formatting mistakes put a lot of extra pressure on me.
My personal problem is that I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself and want to please everybody instead of realizing that nobody expects me to be perfect on my first day. But I wasn’t able to think like that, and so all I wanted to do was to finish the table of contents as quick as possible, regardless of several typos I had to fix anyways. My supervisor sent me an email of what I needed to keep in mind in regards to the table of contents in the future.
After I was finally done with this task, I was asked to start the clips for the following Monday by putting them in a Word document and saving them under a specific folder my supervisor told me earlier about. Unfortunately, I forgot which folder, and when I asked my supervisor, she wasn’t really pleased. In a moody voice she told me, “The one I told you earlier about.” My brain was still blank and I couldn’t think of the location of the folder.
So, feeling even more uncomfortable, I went back to my supervisor and asked her really nicely if she could show me one more time where I could find it. Expecting another annoyed answer, I was very surprised that she kept calmer this time and quickly showed me where to find it. But from that situation on, I had an even more uncomfortable feeling. I don’t want to disclose too much, but sometimes, she made me feel stupid when I was just being an intern who was there to learn certain things.
In addition to this incident, I was also being told off that day for not properly following the call protocol, meaning that I forgot to ask who the caller was before transferring her to my boss’s phone. I understand what I did wrong, but from that moment on, I was terrified to make that mistake again and to pick up the phone in general.
At the end of the day, I didn’t feel that my supervisor and my boss were really pleased with my performance. It took forever for me to finish assignments, I had problems with handling the phone, and my electronic hour log didn’t work, so I had to run out to my car, get the paper version I was handed during orientation, had to scan it and send it via email to the HR department. All this made me leave the office half an hour late on my first day.
I know this all doesn’t sound as dramatic on paper, but I was devastated. I felt like a total failure and doubted that I would be able to handle the pressure well. Once I sat in my car to drive back home, I started crying, not wanting to go back the following week. It took many conversations with friends, patience, and my supervisor being sick to finally realize that I was capable of doing the job, and that I had the potential to learn a lot. I just wasn’t able to see that right away.
Anne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She has been living in Southern California since 2011.
If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.