How to get the best of your traineeship?

Hi everyone,

Hanh’s finally back with her blog after couple of months 🙂

Today I’d like to share with you guys a story about my summer traineeship at UPM and some fundamental lessons that I’ve picked up along the journey. Now, seat tight and tag along for the next couple of minutes, okay?

Around 8 months ago, after having gone through several interview rounds with KONE for their International Traineeship Program (ITP), I was very hopeful about my summer – dreaming about the day when I’d set my foot on the company ground. Unfortunately, life isn’t always what it semms – Covid-19 hit & destroyed all the norms. Just a few days from my then-latest interview session, KONE made an announcement that their ITP was called off due to the severe pandemic situation – crushing the dream I’d had few days before that. I recalled vividly that I was heavily struck by the news since KONE ITP was one of the only 2 programs that proceeded further with me through the application round. Disappointed. On one April evening, I couldn’t help bursting into tears because of the huge stress coming from all those uncertainties for my future (that accumulates nicely with the approach of my 2nd year-meaning the last year of my Master study). Then, all of sudden, on the next day afternoon – when I was taking a walk around my neighborhood for a fresh breeze of air after studying, I received a call from a strange phone number:“Are you Hanh Pham?”

– “Yes. May I ask who’s calling?”

– “Ah, I call from UPM. Do you remember having applied to the Summer Worker position in UPM Supply Chain in December?”“Yes!”

-“Are you still interested in the position?”

-“Absolutely!” – I answered with eagerness & (lots of) hope

-“Great! Then I’ll forward your profile to the hiring manager and if it matches their needs, we’ll be in touch shortly for an interview”

The call was purely magical, if one may put it. Seems like a powerful force of the Universe had found a way for me. I received a call-back immediately the next day and the interview happened only few days afterwards. The entire recruitment process happened in ‘a blink of an eye’ and already in mid-April, I’m one of the summer trainees at UPM Pulp Supply Chain organization.

At first, I expected nothing more than just a summer job with some “rookie” tasks that would end nicely with a “break-up” on the last day of summer. But I WAS ABSOLUTELY TOTALLY ENTIRELY WRONG! Blessed with luck, my tasks were never boring and not rookie at all, my bosses always valued my opinions (hopefully) and my relationship with UPM has been going strong *knock on the wood* still, since I was offered a thesis work in August when my contract was about to end. You see how my initial perception was completely defeated? Admittedly, this has been the best summer job, ah no sorry, BEST JOB I’ve ever had thanks to all the rich experiences and especially the people I’ve worked & connected with throughout the summer.

All those spectacular experiences with amazing people there would be incomplete if I don’t mention about the lessons that I’ve picked up along the way. To be honest, they come quite handy at times. Here comes a few key, invaluable lessons that I would love to share with all the Hankeits out there to maximize your traineeship/internship experience:

1. Keep your expectations level moderate but your motivation level & work ethics high (if not extremely high).

Be positive and open minded because your attitude speaks better than words!

If you ever wonder what can possibly be more important than your professional skill sets, i.e those fancy dashboards you built from Power BI, those regressions you run on Python, etc., then I’d tell you – that is ATTITUDE. Your attitude is the best showcase of yourself that everyone can see and feel almost instantaneously.

Always be open to learn new things, to listen to people’s experiences and to adapt. Do know that people would be more willing to teach you and help you develop if you genuinely show your interest and eagerness to learn and to become a better you every day. 

2. Never say “I can’t/It can’t be done” before trying things out – Remember to take on challenges with a bright smile

This is possibly the greatest thing about being at a trainee/entry position: You have a room to explore yourself, your company and the world; to try things out: to fail fast and to learn your lessons fast because everything is so flipping new to you and most of the time, everyone understands that you always learn things by doing (most effectively through failures though) 🙂

Things that you’ve learnt at school – true that not all of them reflects reality but DO NOT take them for granted! Try to apply something your professor once said at class and retrospect once in while about those concepts/lectures that were stuffed into your head. You might not notice but it does help (if not a lot then at least to some extent) shaping your critical thinking ability and organizing your thoughts in a structured way.

3. Don’t hesitate to reach out to others, even just to ask for a coffee break together – Expand your network!

I think one of the best things when it comes to workplace is the people – those individuals that surround you every day and form what is called “environment”.

They will be the influencers of your professional behavior, the catalyst for your personal development, and in most of the case, the motivation that drives you to work. Without you having realized, but for those people – you are also one of the influential factors. That said, be nice & happy to ask your colleagues how they have been, be courage to build relationships with them and get involved in their work life actively. There’s no better way to expand your network than a 15-minute conversation over a cup of coffee (tea, in my case) or a lunch table filled with laughter.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and challenge conventional way of thinking – Speak up your opinions because you’re better than you think!

Two of the most obvious yet toughest things to do are raising questions and challenge other people ways of working. You might think that your ideas are stupid but maybe you underestimate the importance of “out of the box” thinking. I’m quite sure that once you got your opinion across the table, at least, people will be aware that you have your own view about certain things and that your view is different from others. Naturally, people would reach out to you, asking for your opinions about certain things because they know that you have a different perspective and creativity.

Taking these actions will definitely build up your courage, self-confidence and credibility. I know that the feeling is unpleasant sometimes because who would like to be wrong, right? But remember what Neil deGrasses Tyson once said: “I love being wrong because that means in that instant, I learned something new that day.”

So, that sums up pretty nicely my traineeship experiences and some lessons I was able to get out of it. Hope that you’ve had a good read! Thank you if you make it to this point of the story 🙂

If you have questions – send me an email hanh.pham@student.hanken.fi

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