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The Internship Experience: Week 5

This post is part of our weekly series, The Internship Experience. This series details the experiences of Thomas, Amy, and Sean as interns at The Principal Financial Group. For a full recap, check out the series preview.

Hello readers! My name is Amy, I am a graduate student at Iowa State University, and I am interning this summer at Principal Financial Group along with Thomas (you can read more about me in the “About Us” section :)). Even though this is Internship Experience Week 5, and Thomas has already touched on some of his experiences with his first few weeks of his internship, I’m going to give you a brief recap of my experience so far. Get excited 🙂

So, the first day started out as I imagined it would with the orientation and whatnot, but when I went into the Tower Café for lunch with my leader and some others from my department, I became greatly overwhelmed… so many food choices. But honestly, I was more overwhelmed thinking, “Well, this is it” – my internship had officially begun.

Naturally wanting to make a good impression and not stick out like a sore thumb, I followed my leader and got in line for a grill item. After receiving my tenderloin sandwich, I preceded to squeeze out what I thought was ketchup from a red bottle (what else would it be?) into the paper boat holding my sandwich and fries.

After I had a decent amount in there, I sensed (literally) that something did not seem right about this spicy-smelling ketchup… and that was because it was… *hot sauce*. Great. Not wanting to admit to anyone what I had just done, I picked at what I could savor of my food during lunch and afterwards was walked to my department and shown my cubicle.

Luckily, things started to turn around from here (always keep a positive attitude!). I don’t know how excited one can be about an empty cubicle, but I was pretty impressed by the amount of space that I had. My own little table and chair along with a wrap around desk and normal desk chair with multiple file cabinets and drawers!? I felt important. I also felt special when I saw that there was a “Welcome to Individual Accounting” sign waiting for me and my name was already listed for Workstation 422.

On my very first day, my leader had a list of tasks set up that were to be my responsibilities for the summer once I was trained on them along with a calendar filled in for the entire length of my time here for this internship.  Not a day has passed so far where I have not had something to work on, which makes me feel like I am really contributing to the department and to the company.

Along with a couple of daily responsibilities, I have also been given some projects to help work on as well as tasks that only require me completing them once a week or once a month. I still have a lot of things to be trained on and to learn, and I am very excited that I am able to be involved with so much just in this department and that I am able to get a well-rounded feel for each different area of this department. Not just focusing on one individual task will really open my eyes to what I may want to do, or not want to do, in the future.

Along with trying to get acquainted with my department and building (which happens to be a skyscraper and the tallest building in the state of Iowa, so… that’s pretty cool – although I am only on floor 12 out of 42, but that’s besides the point!), I am also working on becoming familiar with the whole Principal campus and downtown Des Moines skywalk system. With my great sense of direction (sarcasm), I’ve already gotten myself lost more times than I want to admit.

But, I’ve been surprising myself more and more each day with figuring out where I need to go for a meeting or how to get somewhere to eat. Now that I know that Corporate 4 is also the K-building (AND the Z-building… yeah – confusing) and that each building has at least two names if not more, it makes it a little easier to figure out where I need to go. Walking 10 minutes from the parking ramp before I reach my cubicle, while not the most ideal, has also helped to familiarize me with navigating the streets downtown (while also feeling like I’m back at school walking to class… good thing it’s not Winter!).

801 Grand
801 Grand – The building I work in

Another thing I am still working on getting used to is my 40-minute commute to work everyday from Ames. While it’s been a struggle to get up earlier than I would have to if I lived in the same town as where I worked, I’ve found that it’s important to try to find the good in everything and keep a positive attitude.

Commuting has allowed me to work on my patience (traffic around the Des Moines area is not fun before/after work). It has also allowed me to catch up with friends and family on the phone on my drive home (don’t worry, I use a Bluetooth headset so both hands are still on the wheel), and the drive gives me time to clear my head (…and belt it out to my music while I cruise down the interstate pretending I’m the greatest singer of all time… don’t act like you don’t do this too).

One thing I’ve learned from transitioning back and forth between full-time work in the summers to being a student during the rest of the year, is that you learn to appreciate the time you have in your days in different ways. While I enjoy the flexibility of my days during the school year (with some days only having one class, or none, for the day), having homework, projects, studying, tests, and group work can be a real time killer and pain.

So, while working full time takes up my whole day, it is definitely nice to have my nights free without any homework or studying. With already completing my undergrad, I’ve come to realize how quickly time in college flies and how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity that comes along so that you’re not walking across the stage on graduation day wishing you would have taken the time to do something that you didn’t.

Working at The Principal has really made me appreciate everything that this company has to offer. How many people can say that get paid to play dodge ball, hone their ping-pong skills, and attempt to win a foosball game against their HR campus relations manager during normal working hours? How many people can say that they can spend time volunteering and have it count towards their working hours during the week? And, how many people in the corporate world can say that they get jeans days… not just on Fridays, but whenever there is any possibly reason (or not…) to have one?? (*Side note: I’ve realized that food days and jeans days are people’s favorite days around this place!)

While these are just some of the perks I’ve experienced, I also believe that you get out of something what you put into it. I’ve gotten involved with the internship program by taking advantage of all of the different opportunities that are available to us. I have also tried my hardest to understand and comprehend my department and the tasks that I have been assigned so that I can perform well for the company who gives so much flexibility and reward to me. Sometimes this means taking the time to research different things on my own time to fully understand something.

I’ve learned that it is okay to ask questions – actually it is preferred and HOPED for by those around you. While you may feel like a pest, it’s better to ask and do something right than to guess and mess something up. If you wait to ask a question until you should definitely know the answer… that will not look good. I also believe that it’s important to have faith in yourself and give things a shot if you feel like you have something down. Another thing that I’ve really appreciated with my experience here so far is that we as interns are working right along side the full-time employees, given some of the same responsibilities and tasks that they are.

Obviously interns are not going to have as much experience as those who have been working here for years and because of that it’s okay if something does not make sense right away – if nothing is a struggle than you are not being challenged enough and you are not growing as professionally or personally as you could. Don’t give up hope if something is not making sense right away. Things will click eventually and it may happen before you even realize it. I also feel fortunate that I work with a great group of people that I enjoy working with and who are always willing to help me out and who care about my understanding of things – that definitely helps a lot and makes me want to be the same way in the future if I am ever training someone or if there is ever someone new!

Throughout the different jobs I have had in my life, I have come to realize that enjoying the people you work with can make all of the difference! Also, When looking for a company that you want to work for – make sure that your values are aligned with the company’s.

Stay tuned next week for more internship experiences from Sean, another new writer and intern at The Principal.