Two years ago I was interning at Edelman in Austin, Texas in a small office of 7 people working on clients such as LIVESTRONG and American Intercontinental University. I never would have dreamed that one day soon I would not only be studying abroad in beautiful Sydney, but that I would yet again find myself with the amazing opportunity of working at Edelman.
When I first arrived, my uni gave us a list of what to expect about the cultural differences between Australia and the States in regards to the workplace. As my internship concludes, I thought I’d reflect on how different (and similar) Aussie and American workplaces are.
Here are the tips from my uni and my observations after being at Edelman for 2 months:
Australians don’t know what to do with interns
My uni explained that interns are not as common in Australia, especially at the scale that companies use them in the States (at my last internship I worked with 35 other interns), so companies often have no idea how to manage an intern. For many of my friends this has led to a miserable experience where their coworkers have no idea what to do with them so they either end up sitting on Facebook with nothing to do all day or having an overwhelming amount of work that they are far too inexperienced to do. This was not at all my experience at Edelman. I have been given exciting and challenging tasks every single day and am always learning something new. Far from being left to fend for myself, someone is always there for guidance and to give me valuable feedback. I have been pleasantly surprised that no matter the scope of the task, my coworkers take the time to discuss the bigger picture and strategy with me so I can truly understand what I am working on.
You won’t understand half of what they say
Adjusting to the lingo here took a little bit of getting used to. Lollies, arvo, chewie, exy, uni? My first few days I spent more time Googling words than I did doing actual work. I eventually got the hang of the Aussie slang, but I’m still trying to keep track of the different spelling.
Aussies are more blunt and tell it like it is
I found this somewhat true, but only in the best of ways. In my experience, Americans in the workplace are much more likely to gossip and talk behind each other’s backs. When someone makes a mistake, it isn’t uncommon for it to be spread around the office before they hear about it. It seems to me that people are simply more genuine in Australia, and feel comfortable addressing issues head on instead of in a roundabout way.
Aussies are generally friendlier and more social at work
This definitely rang true for me. Aussies’ comfort with telling it like it is seems to translate into people being more themselves at work and feeling less like they have to maintain a hierarchy or present a professional façade to their coworkers, which can be fairly common in the States. This creates a sense of comradery between coworkers that I haven’t seen at home, and leads to much more collaboration when it comes to the day-to-day work. Being allowed to have a drink at work doesn’t hurt the social aspect either.
Overall, my experience at Edelman in Sydney has been incredible. I have learned more than I ever thought possible in two months about PR, and everyone has done an amazing job at making sure I’ve gotten everything I can out of this internship. I wish I didn’t have to leave, but I know the skills I’ve learned here will be an invaluable tool moving forward.
So long to Oz, it’s back to Texas for me… for now
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