Be Selfish and Eavesdrop: Unexpected Ways to Have an Awesome Internship
What do internships have to do with good management and company culture? How can you give your interns a good experience, but still make sure that they work hard? And if you’re an intern, how do you convince your company to hire you?
I don’t have all the answers to these questions, but I have a few. Roughly two weeks before I was offered a full-time position at Engagio, I wrote a blog post about the time I spent as an intemarketing department. While I thought at the time that I was only writing about internships, I realized later that I was actually creating a window through which people could see the work culture and management culture that’s encouraged by Engagio.
The advice I have here is applicable if you’re an intern in an office environment, no matter what industry you’re in. If you’d like advice that’s more specific to marketing internships, then I encourage you to check out the version of this article that’s published on LinkedIn’s Marketing Blog.
- Be selfish. I’m going to level with you: most internships either don’t pay, or they don’t pay well. Your main compensation is in the skills and information that you’ll gain. So actively seek out learning opportunities! It may feel awkward at first to advocate for time to learn things, but keep in mind that not only does it benefit you, but it also benefits your company. If you see someone doing something that you’d like to learn about, ask about it! Put time on someone’s calendar, look over their shoulder, or get the resources they used to learn it. Ask to be put on projects or shadow people that you’re interested in learning from. Remember: the more you can do, the more valuable you are.
- Pay attention to the jobs around you, and imagine yourself in each role. What part of that job do you like? What part do you dislike? If you find a particular role that appeals to you, start diving into it. Ask for a project that relates to it, or offer to help that person with their job, or both! Try and adapt your internship to orient towards the jobs that you could imagine yourself doing in the future.
- Be your team’s missing puzzle piece. Figure out what strengths each of your team members bring to the table, then consider what strengths YOU have that aren’t represented on that team. The most valuable skill set you have to offer is the one that no one else has. Or maybe all your skills overlap with someone else’s, but you’ve noticed a particular pain point for your team. In that case, acquire the skills to solve that pain point. In a workplace setting, your greatest value lies within the context of the team dynamic, so figure out what your team needs and then step up to the plate.
- Be a magical office elf. All together now: “Always be yourself. Unless you can be an office elf. Then, be an office elf.” You’re not just a coffee-fetching intern, you’re a magical creature who delivers caffeine to make people smile! Ok, yes, I know that getting coffee can be a drag… but only if you think of it as a drag. Instead, frame these little tasks as a way to serve your team. Think about what you can do for people to brighten their day, or to make things a little bit easier for them.
…Too cheesy for you? Don’t like elves? Then focus on the positive aspects of these tasks: stocking the fridge can be a great break from more intense projects, dropping off packages is a good way to stretch your legs and get some fresh air, and so on.
- You have a unique perspective. Don’t be afraid to bring it to the table. Sometimes interns feel like they don’t have anything to offer (I definitely feel this way sometimes!) because they lack expertise. But you still have valuable thoughts and opinions, because you can bring the lessons you’ve learned from other places into the workplace. Your little league baseball team, your theatre classes in college, your knowledge of obscure holidays — there’s ways it can all be helpful! I promise! Don’t be afraid to connect the dots in the workplace and use what you’ve learned in other environments.
- Eavesdrop like there’s no tomorrow. If you’re in an open plan office, then I encourage you to eavesdrop as much as possible. (But, like, don’t be creepy about it.) Listen to the conversations that your team members have with each other, because they can give you valuable context around projects you’re working on, the challenges and successes the team is experiencing, important events within the company, trends within your industry, etc. There’s a lot to be gained from taking off your headphones sometimes.
- Be a detective: find an answer to every question. Every question you have, find an answer for it. Sometimes, such as in the first few weeks of your internship, you’ll be expected to learn a lot of things very quickly. If it’s appropriate to ask your question immediately, then do so, but otherwise write it down. Then figure out which questions you can Google, and which ones you’ll need to ask someone about. People’s time is valuable, so if you can figure out something quickly on your own, then it’s best to be self-reliant. But there will be plenty of questions that Google can’t answer, and it’s worth taking people’s time for those. Remember: it’s best to err on the side of asking too many questions rather than too few.
- Do good work. I hesitated to include this one, because it seems obvious. But seriously, do work that you’re proud of. Put in the effort, put in the time, and ask for the resources you need. If you have a good manager (Hi, Brandon!), then they’ll set you up to succeed. But if you’re being set up to fail… well, then it’s time to find a new internship. Might I suggest applying for one at Engagio?