Scaling the (Apprenticeship) Wall

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Internships and surviving the blood-soaked lands of Westeros have more similarities than meets the eye.



Assuming you found the right apprenticeship (see The Dark Side of Apprenticeship for benchmark) – where you actually learn something beyond the intricacies of the photocopier/Nespresso machine, you will definitely be thrown in at the deep end.

Through the waves of paperwork, drafts and tasks, it might start to seem like you are fighting an endless battle for the throne in George R.R. Martin’s war torn Seven Kingdoms (sans blood-frenzied, sword-wielding individuals trying to prematurely end your life). So what does one do when faced with such adversities? Pick up your own damn sword too, of course.

But just as any Olivar, Edder and Elen can pick up a sword in the streets of King’s Landing, anyone can sign up for an internship. Afterall, it is the oldest trick in the book to get an edge over your fellow mortar-hat-throwing comrades. So instead of being just another face in the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed crowd, be like Arya of the house Stark and start wielding your own Needle/internship like a pro.

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1. “Every hurt is a lesson, and every lesson makes you better.” – Syrio Forel

As an apprentice, if easy is what you seek (aka basic administrative tasks and the occasional social media post), put those three months to better use – like re-watching Game of Thrones. So before you go on a Twitter ragefest about unreasonable bosses and their insurmountable tasks and demands, here’s a tip: no one expects you to get it right the first (second, or even third) time.

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Hours of standing on tiptoe, feline-catching around the Red Keep, and endless lessons with her “Dancemaster” was just a taste of the training Arya went through to get her foundations in swordplay right. But just as how with immense gumption and resoluteness, she became a (mini) force to be reckoned, a healthy dose of determination and painful re-writes will go a long way for you. Before long, abovementioned tasks will be such a breeze that you will wonder why you ever thought they were impossible.

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2. “Who will I practice with?” -Arya Stark

Arya’s swordplay lessons may have equipped her with the knowledge about proper sword grip and sneak attack techniques to defeat imaginary foes, but outside the Red Keep? It is as useful as your knowledge about the marketing mix, cognitive dissonance theories and executing advertising campaigns with infinite budgets. Hint: not useful.

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When it comes down to actual practical use – be it slaying a foe to avenge a friend or implementing a new digital ecosystem, nothing counts more than real-life experience. And the faster you embrace that fact (and not just use it as a motherhood statement during interviews), the faster you will realise you know nothing.

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Only then will you be open to learning the true ways of the workplace, and that is one (of the many) true mark of an apprentice.

3. “A man is not Jaqen H’ghar.” – Jaqen H’ghar

Just because your previous internships and school projects labelled you as the designer/writer/social media specialist/coffee-run professional, does not mean you should remain as such.

In the words of Faceless Man Jaqen H’ghar: Be no one.

Put your past aside. Extract yourself from well-segmented pigeonholes. Try your hand at new experiences and skills. Create badly put together work. Get rejected. Repeat till proficient. Maybe have a cold celebratory beverage (after hours of course).

Now repeat that for every new skill you have yet to learn. Once you get over yourself (and the subsequent years of cringing at past work), you will realise these are the experiences that made the most impact. Afterall, why be a bonafide (insert specialisation) when you can be a bonafide (insert specialisation again) with skills in five more other areas?

4. “When you play the game of thronesyou win or you die. There is no middle ground.” – Cersei Lannister

“Joffrey. Cersei. The Tickler. Polliver. Ser Amory Lorch. Walder Frey. Mervyn Trant. Tywin Lannister. The Red Woman. Beric Dondarrion. Thoros of Myr. Ilyn Payne. The Mountain. The Hound.”

Just as reciting her list of people to kill for revenge keeps Arya focused on her mission, knowing what you want out of your internship is crucial. If cruising through and getting a name to put on your resume is what you seek, by all means. But if what you seek is to create a legacy (which may or may not lead to an eventual job), start planning what you can bring to the table. Or at least know what skills and knowledge you wish to get out of your stint.

Three months, one chance. 

Whether it is a new branding initiative, a well written internal newsletter, or a social media campaign with excellent engagement, leave something behind that made a difference. There’s nothing too small or insignificant. Afterall, one name crossed off Arya’s list is one man/woman less to shed (even more) unnecessary blood across Westeros.

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5. “We have won a battle, not a war” – Catelyn Stark

If you prove to be a survivor thus far, you should be a full-fledged apprentice by the end of your internship period. Yes that’s right – this is only the start to your apprenticeship.

Just as new threats move in from the North (think White Walkers!), lines between allies and foes blur, and the sound of dragons echo across the Narrow Sea, curveballs should be thrown regularly, and limits should be tested at every single opportunity for any apprentice worth their salt. 

So if you think that the end of your internship means you made it out of the jungle, it’s not. But whether you choose to take to the roads (I hear Highgarden is beautiful) or continue down the path to the Iron Throne of your career, you will definitely be well-equipped with the skills that can take you anywhere. If you survive.

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