Full Time Difference

Posted on Tuesday, Nov 26, 2019

            Like most college students, I had a summer job, a monotonous, simple, dead end summer job. However, unlike some college students, but perhaps like many of them, I had never had a full-time job. From the beginning of June to the middle of August I was a part time bank teller, spending four or five hours a day mechanically taking cash and checks from customers and depositing them into their accounts. My co-workers were nice, the customers were entertaining, and the pay was good enough. The part time schedule allowed for more than enough time to sleep, hang out, or simply do nothing. At the time, I viewed these five-hour days as tedious, and at times exhausting. I knew that my internship would be different in many aspects, but I underestimated just how dissimilar it would be.

            First of all, the eight-hour days, five days a week, week after week, was a huge transition for me. The college student lifestyle is hallmarked by intense peaks of effort during midterms and finals, followed by longer plateaus of homework and time spent simply attending class. Working a full-time job, however, is constant and routine. Going to work, spending all day in the office, and leaving in the late afternoon, only to come back early the next morning to do it all again, was truly exhausting. The first few weeks I was in D.C. I fell into a familiar pattern of staying up until at least midnight, regardless of the fact that I had to be at work by 8 a.m. My alarm would force me into a zombie-like state, where I would get ready for work in a heavy fog. This haze would lift during my walk to the metro, but return with a fury around 10:30 a.m., and again in the afternoon, making it very hard to be productive. To combat this fatigue, I had to force myself to fall asleep before eleven, something I had not done since high school. After a few days on this earlier schedule, my fatigue faded, mostly. My advice to any future intern would be to get yourself adjusted to an early sleep schedule in the weeks leading up to the start of your internship.

            Another difference I underestimated was the intellectual capacity that was going to be required of me. I expected I would be put on different projects ranging a diverse set of topics, but I also expected I would be tasked with doing basic intern things, like office chores, answering phones, taking notes during meetings. This turned out to not be the case, from the second week on I was given a series of research projects to complete at my own pace. Being a seasoned college student, I went at my projects like a research paper with a fast approaching deadline. Within the first few days I realized this approach was not going to work in my new position. Unlike my summer job in college, my new work was the opposite of mechanical. The research was intense and working on one project all day, quickly became intellectually exhausting. To break up the day, I decided to work on multiple projects a day, never more than three hours at a time. Also, I would take a break every hour or so and walk around the office for a few minutes. I would advise any new intern to of course take their job seriously, but to remember that taking breaks is okay, and spreading your effort and time around can be far more productive than not doing so.

Corbin Doyle
Naval History & Heritage Command
Washington, D.C. | fall 2019