We asked our Content and Communications Intern, Kate Rarey, to write about her internship with Matchbox.io this summer. Coinciding with her internship, of course, was an ongoing pandemic due to COVID-19, which has caused the upheaval of daily life around the world. Below is Kate's inspiring message to her fellow students on navigating the new experiences of a pandemic, an internship, and remote work, all at the same time.
Addressing a letter to you, the student left reeling in the wake of the utter destruction to every plan they held sacred, is addressing a letter to myself. Like you, I was swept mercilessly into confusion, fear and unalterable change this past March. Any trace of “normal” was tossed to the wind; any reliance on the future became strained and uncertain. We were all devastated: This is not what we planned.
But to write a letter to you is to remind me, March me, me in the time of COVID, that a timeline means nothing. Please, take a deep breath. Sit outside for a moment, hug your loved ones. Our conditioning to keep our eyes on the "next best thing," the "next step," the next building block in our notion of linear growth is superfluous, almost vain, as the world around us was built upon (and grows out of) unpredictable change. We’ll reach that adulthood everyone’s been talking about whether or not we graduate in four years, ace that test, or make the honor roll on a semester turned haphazardly online.
The advice I have to offer you is my own, how I entered a world remote and found something quite wonderful (that I didn’t know I was looking for). The path you pave will be up to you, but hopefully this makes it seem all seem a little bit less scary.
Dear fellow (displaced) students,
There is one rule in remote work that you must understand: Everything is flexible and constantly in motion.
From the moment I began work at Matchbox.io, I was surprised and delighted by the ways in which the industry resembled my own pursuits as a 20-something adult. That is to say, success in the remote business is most often found through trial and error. What seems to be working, run with; what’s beginning to limp behind, cut off before it drags on for too long. Try any and everything with genuine effort, in any shape it comes (you might be surprised what works and what doesn’t).
In order to be a part of a business whose tech is constantly adapting, you must desensitize yourself to the idea that chances are there won’t be a five-year plan, projected growth model, or definite understanding of what the distant future might hold. It is imperative to act quickly, accurately, and with thought to the form your work could take next.
My first assignment at Matchbox was to write short, informative articles on the given Question of the Day (a highly popular voice app on Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Samsung Bixby). The topics, of course, were trivia, ranging from outer space to Britney Spears to deadly snakes. The articles were a new pursuit for the company, and I had few points of reference to write about topics with which I had no experience (quite literally: “We’re trying this out, it might not work, but go for it”).
But, much to my excitement, the novelty of the endeavor left me nearly complete discretion on the form my work would take. I had the opportunity to research, learn, and synthesize in a way entirely my own, based on what I found to be interesting. An assignment that had first appeared daunting quickly became a delight -- trusting my intuition opened doors for personal learning while performing up to Matchbox’s mission to educate.
After the first few articles I began to realize: I did have experience after all. As a college student pursuing an English major, I had been conducting research, thinking analytically and writing for most of my academic career. The tools for my success were at my feet packaged under another name.
Which leads me to my second word of wisdom for those interested in remote work: You are more prepared than you think you are. The skills you’ve been accumulating in school, in miscellaneous jobs, and internships are all means of paving your way. Even without professional experience (say, you worked at a summer camp two summers ago), any and every skill you’ve taken away from the experience is worthy. How to effectively communicate, how to dive deeper, how to create a unique angle are all skills I’ve learned through experience and adaptation. In a field constantly changing, the chances are you will need to engage with content in ways you wouldn’t have expected.
In the three-odd months I’ve been in charge of Matchbox’s articles, the endeavor has become an integral one to the company. I’ve written more than 70 articles, most of which feature content to which I had no previous knowledge. I’ve honed these skills elsewhere in the company, such as by creating future questions of the day for English, French, and Spanish locales. I’ve even gotten to try my hand at writing riddles! Every week, I’m able to log on to create something brand new.
All this to say: I had no idea what I could do until I was doing it. I urge you, the student poised perfectly on a precipice of change, to try your hand at what you most love. Bark up trees you’ve never touched. Then, delete it, start over, and try it a new way. Become accustomed to adaptation and growth. Change is healthy! And, (there’s good news) if it all seems a little too daunting, step back, take a breath, and ask for help.
My final piece of advice, and perhaps the most important, is that your coworkers, boss, or teammates are all there with their own trial and error, their own understanding of what can and has and will work. Countless times over the past three months, I’ve run myself into walls before forcing myself to seek guidance, when ultimately a single question is all it takes to raise the gates. 99% of the time, they know something that can be valuable to the problem before you. A support system sets you up for success, and your team is on your side.
Whatever, however, and whenever you do, good luck! I’m rooting for you.
Kate Rarey has been the Content and Communications Intern at Matchbox.io since May. This Fall, she will enter her third year as an English major at Kenyon College (remotely, for now), while officially joining the team at Matchbox as Staff Writer. You can read Kate's articles on the Question of the Day website.