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When it ends it doesn’t stop

Blogger: Geoff Holmes, MSc. • 04 Dec 2018

During my first two trainee spots at TNO I worked as a scientist in Delft. Firstly, at the Innovation Centre Buildings and then at Structural Reliability. When I started I had been living in the Netherlands for less than a year and had just moved from Groningen to Rotterdam. On top of this it was my first real job so as you can imagine that I had no idea what I was doing. From working in projects, sitting in meetings and speaking a new language – I was basically clueless.

I found this feeling to be quite unsettling considering that I had just spent the past five years of my life studying to prepare me for working life, but the moment it started I still felt clueless. At that point I realized that studying was a great tool for acquiring knowledge, but to be effective at work there’s more needed. What was needed couldn’t be learnt in a book and I don’t think anyone could’ve taught it to me. The best way to learn was to just do.

I applied this approach most effectively at my third trainee spot. This was at the Networks research group in The Hague. My assignment was to improve the departments contacts with market parties and the method for doing this was to organize the 3-day Ultra-Fast Broadband Seminar. I was working at a department where I had no background in the field and in a role in which I had no experience. This naturally meant that I was back again to being clueless. I decided that the best way to deal with this cluelessness was to just go ahead and do start doing something.

The event has since passed, and it was successful, and this approach is something typical of the traineeship. The traineeship has been a learning-by-doing crash course on the topic: “How to become effective in my job at TNO”. This crash course was filled with unfamiliarity, confusion and discomfort. However, it’s exactly these unfamiliar, confusing and uncomfortable tasks that have had the most value. After such a task, the unfamiliarity is gone and therefore there has been the greatest learning potential.

The traineeship is now nearing an end for me and I will be continuing at the Sustainable Transport and Logistics department. This is another new department where I have new assignments and new responsibilities, which means that I will be clueless once again. Fortunately, the traineeship has taught me that the learning potential there is greatest, and it’s given me the approach I need to succeed.

About the author

Name: Geoff Holmes, MSc.
Background: Civil Engineering, Environmental Planning.
Start date September 2016
Departments:
1st: Innovation Centre Buildings, Delft
2nd: Structural Reliability, Delft
3rd: Networks, The Hague
Currently: Sustainable Transport & Logistics, The Hague

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