So this is intern season. This is when the work world slows down just enough to catch a few rays of sun, dust off the Hunts barbecue sauce, and add a pair of bling flip flops to last year’s over-worn styles. For some executives however, work speeds up and the stress does not come to a desired screeching Summertime halt. The Boys of Summer and Bananarama will have to wait!
New faces join the offices, you fly in from all over the country, English and Chem finals behind, you enter a sea of box cubicles. People making idle chat by Keurig coffee makers, abandoned ping pong tables, and you try to make home a place with unwritten rules and strange codes of silence. Writing those first google mails can fuel anxiety and stress… How do I schedule with Outlook? What the heck is WebEx, Zoom, Salesforce and Lync?
Interns, here are five things we want you to know:
1] We want you to be happy here and productive professionally. We want to gauge where you are at and want to see you grow. We don’t expect you to know everything there is to know about our companies and the world of work… but with that said, we want you to ask the questions that will enable you to do your job effectively. We want to assign you a role you find stimulating that you can really take on and build. Hopefully this role builds on your strengths if we did the interviewing right. Sometimes we will seem busy and as the Twenty One Pilots state ‘stressed-out’, and well… we are. But you can help us by asking your peers for answers first, scheduling a quick coffee chat or helping us find a time to press our own pause buttons and take a walk-and-talk with you. Don’t mistake our stress for lack of caring and approachability. We don’t want you to hide behind your computers and re-appear on your last day. We are hoping you will connect, make some lunchtime friends, people you might meet even up with on a weekend, and when you are working we want to feel you are diligently working hard and smart.
2] We want you to be open to feedback to grow. You might turn in a project that’s not at an ‘A’ level or in a league that we can use it professionally. This happens. This will likely happen. We do see it as our job to give you some pointers to get your work up to a professional par (and hopefully we will remember at this point that we were young too, we were interns too, we were new once too). This experience of early feedback will probably make you feel a bit crappy (especially if you are used to getting A’s in school) and some of us might not phrase things in the softest way— but as long as you are willing to go back to the drawing board and work hard to get it right, this is an opportunity to really impress us. It is at this moment of feedback and deliverable that you can get a mini-promotion with your supervisor(s) to more responsibilities, potential future employment, and we will start talking (or bragging) about how much you impressed us with others in the company.
Extra Credit: Ask us for honest feedback about your overall performance every few weeks. What you are doing well and what you can improve on. Highlights and lowlights.
3] We see you, and know you are more than your work. We might decide to start mentoring you because we like you. We feel a good rapport. We don’t mind grabbing a cup of coffee, having you join us in a meeting, or taking you to lunch. If this happens for you this Summer- brava! you are going from the outside to the inside. We might start confiding things to you about our lives outside of work, our athletic children, or a challenge with our Cocker Spaniel’s behavior and why she is now on doggie- Prozac. If this happens, start thinking of what you most want to learn from this relationship and suggest that you start coming up with questions for mentoring discussions. Ask for stretch assignments. Offer to help your supervisor-turning-mentor on a project or share an idea of something you could work on that could help the company. Then knock-that-project-out-of-the-park and put in some late hours to really get noticed. Try to help diffuse some of your Supervisor’s work stress. Be part of his/her team, not an outsider.
Don’t join in on gossip at the company- ever. This will harm you and others long term. Just listen and try to steer the conversation in a positive way. See your Supervisor and colleagues as multi- dimensional human beings… We have lost a lot of humanity in the world of work and people often feel lonely and fearful. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Do you share some hobbies with others like travel in Asia, shopping at Trader Joes, golf or body piercing? Find commonalities, ask about the new grandkids. Teach them new technologies you are good at (reverse mentoring). Find ways to praise other interns and deserving executives. We all love a good team player.