Going into any internship or task, we often do not begin with asking: what can I do wrong?
Instead, the majority of us approach a new opportunity with a different lens: what am I going to do? what am I going to learn? how am I going to do this all? what else lies ahead?
While it is important to prepare for a worst-case-scenario situation, it is often difficult to imagine what may come up during the course of an internship or project, let alone how you may make a mistake when that situation arises. Thus, when facing the reality of something unintentionally going wrong, it may at first seem very difficult to tackle head-on.
In the beginning of my internship, I was tasked with creating models and content based upon initial polling calculations I had to calculate. While the math needed to be computed was relatively simply, it involved rows upon rows of data that seem almost uniform upon first glance. Therefore, it was very easy for an error to occur if you were to look at the datasets too quickly or without proper consideration.
Fast forward to the end of creating my charts based on these numbers. As I put the final dataset into a graph, I noticed the percentage of voters under a specific polling question did not add up to 100%. What I thought at first was simply an addition error when totaling the percentages, quickly became something much larger. Because I had not double-checked the initial calculations that all of my content was based upon, all of my data and charts were incorrect.
While this called for less hours of sleep and extra hours ensuring that the mistake was remedied, I realized how all of this could have been avoided if I had simply taken the five-ten minutes in the beginning to verify my work before continuing.
While this seems relatively trivial (and something of a very unsubstantial realization), it truly had an effect on my work moving forward. I think many of us are often quick to keep moving forward in order to reach our goals as fast as possible, whether it be related to making calculations or even working with others, that we forget to take a second to ensure that everything – and everyone – is on the same page along the way. I now make more of a conscious effort to take the extra few steps to ensure everything already completed has been done correctly, for what may cost a few minutes initially can save hours of time in the end.