Resolutions for the Aspiring Intern
December 16, 2019
In this season of reflection and resolutions, I suspect there may be a few readers of the Grisko Insights blog who are looking ahead to an internship in the new year. As someone who has managed interns and who got his start at Grisko as an intern, I’ve had a few different perspectives on the experience – and am about as strong a booster as they come for the power of a great internship to change one’s trajectory.
If you are resolving to be a great intern in 2020 – or are past the internship phase and are looking to inspire the next generation – here are a few of my tips for making the most of an internship opportunity:
Ace the “little stuff”
Cleaning the office and stapling that pile of documents might not exactly have been the purpose of your higher education. However, aside from helping your colleagues do their work more easily, these sorts of foundational tasks are important as a chance to prove yourself. In a real, quality internship, more interesting and complex projects await the eager intern – but only if you can prove your mettle with the basics first.
Take care of the “little stuff” and the smallest of details with gusto – in doing that with excellence, you earn the trust of your colleagues – and open the door to new project opportunities.
Make coffee and get coffee
Cliché as it is, yes – you may be asked to make a cup of coffee or two for your team during your internship. Not being a coffee aficionado in the slightest, I still remember the trials of learning the personality of our office coffee-maker in one of my first roles out of college. A world-class barista, I was not – but my work here did help break the ice with some colleagues I wouldn’t have otherwise connected with.
What took that chatter to the next level, though, was getting coffee with members of the team – which came with a generous side of career advice, insights and camaraderie. Be proactive in setting these coffees up with colleagues, aspiring intern, and you are sure to learn something valuable and help your colleagues get to know you better.
Take care of business – but make sure to explore, too
As an intern, your top priority should absolutely be doing great work in support of your office’s core goals. However, if you have extra bandwidth, try your best to take advantage of the opportunities the typical internship can present.
Are your colleagues talking about an event around town that sounds interesting? See if you can attend. Does your organization offer any training opportunities that might be useful for you in the future? Sign up for a class. Always wanted to learn about a subject that might be out of your intended career path? Reach out to a colleague to see if they can give you an overview.
Don’t be afraid to have a few good failures
A quality internship should provide a space where you can fail without devastating consequences, most of the time. This is, after all, a learning experience for you – and there’s no teacher quite like failure.
Aim for excellence, of course. But if you err, take the opportunity to learn why and be better the next time. Volunteer that idea that might seem out-of-left-field in a meeting – you never know where your fresh perspective can be helpful. And if you are struggling, work with your internship coordinator to learn more about a better path forward. You won’t always have the chance to have such a dedicated guide later in your career.
Ask, “what else can I do?” – and leave a legacy
No matter the name on the building, the structure of your program or the expertise of your supervisor, you, aspiring intern, hold the key to determining the quality of your experience.
So, if you want to stick to what’s asked of you, that certainly can clear the bar. A better approach, though, is to keep the thought of “what else can I do?” at the forefront. This is essential to your growth, helping you develop the critical thinking skills to anticipate what’s around the bend and what can be done to address it. I promise it will also endear you to your colleagues along the way.
In that spirit, try your best to leave your organization a little better than it was on the first day of your internship. Clean up the office storage closet. Update a contact list that will help your team down the road. Or tackle research that could be valuable for new business in the future.
And when it’s all said and done, write an old-style thank-you note to each member of your team to cement your experience. Make sure to provide your best contact information moving forward too – hopefully, your team will reach back out soon and ask where they can find an intern as good as you!
December 16, 2019