Being a student, sitting in classes, participating in projects as each new semester begins. But does the experience help when faced with real-life working situations? During my studies of media management at the Karlshochschule, I had the opportunity to intern in business for a semester. So I was excited to have been able to spend three months working at the ZKM in Karlsruhe in the marketing and communications department.
There, I had various responsibilities and was given new tasks every day and whilst working with different people and coping with different lines of work, it was crucial to be prepared and flexible at any point. This being my first professional work experience, I was not sure what exactly would be required of me and how I could use my skill set or adapt it in order to fit into the company’s structure. Furthermore, not being a student of marketing, resulted in additional uncertainty regarding my tasks and how my acquired skills could be useful in accomplishing them.
Getting to know my job and its responsibilities soon made me understand how different skills I had trained during my time at the university became useful and how they allowed me to organize my workload more efficiently. I realized that especially the company projects at the Karls, which provided us with real-life tasks created by actual companies, helped me in managing my internship at the ZKM.
Working with different people in a new environment, filled with new responsibilities was challenging and demanded the ability to adapt to new situations and last-minute changes swiftly. Having partaken in two company projects during my prior semesters, enabled me to draw from experiences and training I had gathered during that time. Starting at the very beginning, when one receives a task to the completion of it, I learned to keep several chapters in mind in order to be more structured and successful.
Following key points I believe to have been useful:
Knowing the task
What is actually wanted? Understanding a task is one thing, but understanding it in the way the customer/superior has intended to can be entirely different. Asking questions and listening carefully is essential, regardless of the type of task one is given.
Knowing the target
Even if the task is clear and a solution is ready, knowing the target can affect both the process of finding a solution and the solution itself. Problems can be solved in different ways, ideas can lead in various directions, but knowing the target and their needs, can be extremely helpful in finding the best-personalized solution, whether it is a superior asking or a company wanting a new perspective.
Knowing the setting
Last but not least, understanding one’s surroundings. Who is it that I am working with? What variables can or can’t I rely on and to what extent? If one is part of an official event or sitting in a room with the same group of people for two weeks working on one project, the more one knows, the easier it gets.
Knowing the limits
For most tasks or projects there are limitations, those regarding time, budget or any other resource. Understanding what they are and how they work together can help to create an easier process and avoid mistakes.
Knowing the priorities
Both in a company project at the university and in the office at the ZKM, many different tasks flow in at the same time and the skill to prioritize accordingly is crucial, especially when deadlines or hierarchical structures exist. Juggling different workloads and entire webs of larger or smaller tasks can be both challenging and time-consuming and therefore requires a general concept for priority setting.
Having had the chance to train these steps in my time at university made me more efficient during my internship and aided me in having a better overview of the marketing department and its characteristics.
Therefore, I can conclude that my studies at the Karlshochschule and especially my participation in the company projects have in some ways helped me to find my way around a real-life marketing department and all its everyday challenges. Having handled deadlines, intense group work and multi-tasked workloads, allowed me to be more confident and simply more able to manage my first experiences in a professional working atmosphere.
Article by Paria Jamali-Hanjani, student of Media Management