Don’t end your apprenticeship with a bullet through your brain.
Being an apprentice (intern) is tough when you have to put on a bright positive smile even when your boss throws you an insurmountable task. Here’s the thing. Lose the (fake) bright positive smiles, and replace it with good ole’ honesty. It’s no secret that the apprentice and boss have different backgrounds and mindsets. Some bosses may only get you acquainted with the coffee machine, and that is a clear sign that you are at the wrong apprenticeship. So if you are doing an apprenticeship now, take some tips from the characters in Sherlock on how to crack the mystery behind what makes a good apprenticeship.
“Sherlock, have you made a list?” – Mycroft
At Spring, Imran (my boss) goes through with us a written list of tasks that has to be completed on that day. Stop. Don’t roll your eyes. This simple exercise that Imran does with Thao and I every morning is a game changer.
Being an apprentice means you are probably not acquainted with ways of the working world, and is most definitely not acquainted with the regional direction that the team has been working on for years. Having a list will help the team to picture daily priorities, breakdown large tasks, and most importantly to ensure that you are on the same page with everyone else.
Imran goes through a list of not only the big and important tasks, but also the seemingly mundane, simple, and “dumb” tasks. Just as Sherlock makes a list for his ever loving and concerned brother, Mycroft, of the exact amounts of cocaine that he takes to enter his mind palace, make a list of every single brilliant and not-so-brilliant tasks each day.
This will only work if you have a working relationship that is as honest as Sherlock, or as honest as the one we have at Spring. If your boss allows you to voice out when the tasks are too challenging, bothers to explain clearly what his expectations of the day are, and checks with you on whether the tasks are manageable, then you can be certain you are in the right place for a great apprenticeship.
“You are dangerously close to impertinence. I shall have a word with my wife to have a word with you” – John Watson
Manageable is an extremely difficult concept to grasp, because everyone has a different combination of strengths and weaknesses. It is thus very puzzling to me why this concept does not ring loud and true amongst everyone: just because someone can do something, doesn’t mean the rest of the universe can do it too.
Solving the mystery behind what is manageable is no easy feat. I know of friends who have suffered from being uncertain of what tasks were manageable to them, and so ended up being zombies in the office – either working too much, or working too little.
Here’s the trick: while you are on the quest to making yourself more employable, do not forget that you can have a say in how you want your apprenticeship to be. Leave the mindset of being a submissive female in the Victorian Era at where it belongs– in the Victorian Era. Voice out your concerns honestly and reasonably to your superiors and work towards getting your own personal development right.
If you are lucky, you might meet a boss who is a combination of patience and willingness to teach, which makes the quest to finding manageable supremely easy. Imran and Singrui have been extremely patient when Thao and I make mistakes, and they’ve given us room to fail, and even more room to try again till we succeed. They’ve also been very willing to impart to us their tricks of the trade so that we can take on more challenging tasks in future, which hey, isn’t the point of this all?
“We solve crimes, I blog about it” – John Watson
In order to seal in all that hard work of making lists and voicing out your concerns to your superiors, you must end with the final step of daily reviewing.
At the end of the day in Spring, Imran herds us into a meeting room to discuss our personal takeaways of the day. This can take up to an hour, but it is a crucial point of the day where we can put down our work and focus on communicating our thoughts. Just as John Watson sees the crime solving process quite differently from Sherlock, specific takeaways of the day may not be adequately communicated over a busy workday. Granted that the inner all-knowing Sherlock type boss may not agree with everything that the naïve John Watson type apprentice says, but this process has been effective in ensuring that Imran and Singrui know what we have learnt, and we can voice out to them other skills we want to learn about.
It may all seem like common sense, yet it is still not commonplace for company leaders to adhere to these steps and keep their offices crime free. Take the power back by steering your apprenticeship to the right track by following three simple steps. Otherwise, you might end up joining the secret society of neglected apprentices, and risk shooting yourself in the brain at the end of your apprenticeship.