It’s a great feeling when you land a summer internship. You finally have an answer for the daunting question, “What are your plans for the summer?” and you are excited to get some real-world experience. Now don’t get me wrong, those $400 college-level management books do have few words of wisdom in them; but they’re nothing in comparison to what an awesome internship can teach you. Over the course of the internship, you are going to learn a lot. You will learn from projects you do, meetings you sit in on, and most importantly, from the people you meet.
I have composed a list of four of the many people you will meet during this experience, and what they have to offer to you.
1. Your ManagerYou’re probably thinking, “Duh.” But seriously, your manager will be the best teacher and greatest source of support during your summer internship. She will probably want you to take an assessment to learn how to talk to you (Yes! There is a quiz for that!) Your manager is going to try her best to communicate in a way that resonates with you. At C&A, I took an assessment on my communication style, which you may have the opportunity to do at your own internship. She will take you around the building, and give you synopsis on the ins and outs of the company. She will tell you what snacks in the café are worth the pocket change and what you should pass on. She will introduce you to coworkers and managers she thinks will further your development during the summer. She will explain projects to you in a way that actually makes sense, even though you’ve only been with the company for what feels like 2.89 seconds. Your manager is there for you! Being an intern can sometimes feel like being an outsider to the rest of the company; but trust me, you aren’t. Reassure yourself by remembering how you got here in the first place. You impressed someone! You have the full length of the internship to continue proving why you are the best choice for this opportunity.
2. A Senior Manager Who isn’t Your Manager
During an internship, you are going to be exposed to many different people. More often than not, you will get to work with a few different managers throughout your program. This right here is one of the biggest perks of the job. Putting yourself out there and showing upper-level management who you are will be incredibly rewarding. Make it a goal to network and develop a professional relationship with at least three managers while you are interning. Ask him to meet for lunch, or even during his coffee break, to talk about his career path – it’s pretty unlikely that he’ll say no. Just making the effort alone is impressive, but following through and intentionally wanting to learn from him will really set you apart. Once you prove to him you are here to learn, he may invite you to sit in on his department’s meetings, ask for your opinion, and even ask for your assistance on a project or two. Remember, any experience is good experience. An internship is when you should be focusing on the intrinsic value over the extrinsic value. And hey, one of these managers could be a great reference for a full-time job someday. Better yet, you may be able to come back and work for them after graduation!
3. The Co-Worker You Don’t Click with…At First
One of the toughest lessons you are going to learn is that you may not get along with everyone you work with. Regardless of the reason you two don’t get along, you’re going to need to find a way to communicate in a professional manner. Just remember, everyone – and I mean everyone - you meet has something to offer. Maybe she won’t be the person you eat lunch with; but maybe she’s the right person to peer-edit your work. You may learn she excels in an area of the job that you could use some help with, and vice-versa! Maybe she’s a wiz with numbers and you’re great with marketing; collaborate and create a stellar report together. Step out of your comfort zone and teach yourself to work with people who aren’t like you. Learning how to do this will set you up for success for the rest of your career.
4. Your Cubical NeighborYou hear most of his phone calls and observe his work ethic. You know how he starts his morning, when he breaks for lunch and where he goes for his favorite takeout meal – not to mention, you now expect to get an update on any cute things his dog did over the weekend. Your cubical neighbor is one of the first people you will form a relationship with as an intern, just from a convenience factor. Whether he has been with the company for years, or he is starting his first day too, he is going to teach you how to be the best version of yourself at work. He will be the first person you give a high five when you have success at work, and the person you make small-talk with when the afternoon is going slow. He will be the person who helps you with the small stuff, and he will ask you for help too, believe it or not. More often than not, you will automatically look up to your cubical neighbor; he seems to get his work done so effortlessly. On the contrary, if your cubical neighbor isn’t an ideal worker, you will learn how to lead by example. Maybe you could actually teach him a thing or two in this case! Regardless, this person will inspire you to put your best foot forward and help maintain a positive work environment.
An internship is such an exciting and rewarding experience – for both the intern and the company – so make the most of it! You will be set up for success if you show up to work with a positive attitude, the desire to learn, a yummy lunch, and the confidence to try something new each day. Who have you enjoyed learning from during your past internship experiences? I’m sure they learned something from you, too!