Finding Room to Make Mistakes and Let Go of Perfection

It would be an understatement to say that I was nervous as a spring intern for Avid Core on my first day. I logged onto my computer and hesitated to open Microsoft Teams for my first meeting of the semester. My palms were sweating, my voice was cracking, and I spent 45 minutes picking out my outfit (yes, an outfit for a virtual meeting). Finally, after mustering up the courage to join the team meeting, I felt almost embarrassed. Why was I freaking out so bad? Why did I try on my whole closet? And why was I imagining every possible bad scenario?

On that first day, there was really very little I could mess up. But what I wish I could go back and tell myself now is that it is okay to mess up, as long as I learn from it. After all, internships are learning experiences designed to prep us for our professional journey after graduation. Mistakes are inevitable throughout your professional journey and getting caught up in “perfection” can be damaging. 

Image by Trinity Gray

I’ve had my fair share of internship and professional experiences during my time in college. All were different, but they typically operated in the same way. I would get assigned something and be expected to complete it within a certain timeframe. Usually, I didn’t run into any issues and didn’t ask many questions. I just did what I was assigned and turned it in. Avid Core was a little different. With Avid Core, I was doing real work. I wasn’t doing the “busy work” that companies normally give interns, like making copies or grabbing lunches. I was being assigned real tasks and working directly with clients. I loved it, but it did raise some challenges.

This was the first internship where I got real feedback on my assignments. Tasks would come and I would complete them, but when I got feedback on the assignments, I was initially overwhelmed. The skills I thought I already had needed improvement, which was a bit of a shock.  

One of the biggest challenges came in the form of my capstone project. At Avid Core, interns are given a capstone project where they have complete ownership of the process and are responsible for moving it forward all semester long. For mine, I was tasked with streamlining the company’s proposal writing process and creating a functional and easily referenced content bank that would allow the whole team to have access. I didn’t know where to begin and initially, I turned inward, letting my focus on perfection get in the way of progress. 

There were multiple times when I needed to ask for clarification or advice when working through the project, which pushed me out of my comfort zone. But after asking the questions, I felt more confident in completing the work assigned and prouder of the work that I submitted. 

Another challenge that I ran into during this project was time management. In order to complete the project, I had to make sure I was setting aside enough time to make progress weekly while also completing other assignments and schoolwork. There were times when I felt like I wouldn’t finish and sometimes I felt as though I was failing miserably. But I learned how crucial it is to communicate clearly throughout the process, especially with remote work. These feelings of being overwhelmed could have been mitigated if I had reached out. 

In the end, I completed the project and couldn’t be prouder of my work. Not only did I contribute something to the team that they will use for years to come, but I also unlocked something within myself that I wasn’t aware existed — resilience. 

I don’t think we talk enough about the struggles we all have along the way. Everyone talks about successes and the great professional experience you will gain but there are other things to take into consideration. College students are thrown into the professional arena. They are expected to excel when the only skills they previously acquired were from classrooms or internships that felt like personal assistant gigs. 

Looking back, I wish I would have realized this sooner. I think students place a lot of pressure on themselves to look perfect to their supervisors and co-workers. I’m here to tell you that being perfect is unrealistic and impossible. 

Struggling every once in a while doesn’t define you in your job and it certainly doesn’t define you as a person.  Overcoming challenges makes you a better professional and there’s no fun in being perfect!

Trinity Gray is a 2022 graduate of Ithaca College, where she concentrated on Integrated Marketing Communications and Live Event Management and Design. Connect with her on LinkedIn.