This is the first of a four-part series of our 2016 Internship Guide. Through this series we will be highlighting the keys to having a successful internship, to make sure you are fully prepared to take on Corporate America. The points we discuss represent what we feel are the most important things to do in order to have a great experience and get an offer to come back the following summer for another internship or a full-time position. Enjoy!
As an intern, you have the opportunity to demonstrate value to your colleagues in order to get an offer to return to the company the following year as an intern or full-time employee. One of the easiest ways to show you are valuable is to show interest in the tasks at hand.
What does it mean to be curious?
It is pretty simple, really: ask questions as much as possible. It is well understood that you come into an internship with little (or no) knowledge on the field or industry. Take advantage of your ignorance! It gives you a chance to show others that you want to learn. The ability and eagerness to learn is something that companies look for when hiring people. If you are someone that acts like they already know everything and has no desire to learn, you will not get an offer. But, if you are curious and ask questions in order to learn, that reflects positively.
How do I demonstrate curiosity in a way that will not make me feel embarrassed to ask a stupid question?
First of all, as someone that has little or no knowledge, you are not at risk of asking a stupid question. But, there is a right time and place to ask certain questions. If you are in a decision-making meeting that involves multiple levels of management, it is likely not the time or place to ask a basic question. In that situation, write down your questions and observations from the meeting and pull your manager aside after the meeting. They will be more than happy to explain the meeting and answer your questions.
What if I’m truly not interested in the material - should I fake my curiosity?
I encourage you to still ask as many questions as possible, even if the field or subject is not riveting to you personally. You can still demonstrate your curiosity by asking questions to get a better understanding. Plus, you still want to show others your skill set and ability to work hard by asking questions. Otherwise, you are just sitting there wasting space.
What is the best ways for me to show my curiosity?
Outside of asking questions, which was already mentioned, the best way to show curiosity is to find an area of the company that is really interesting to you and learn as much as you can. This may culminate in a side project or a report that you share with your manager, which I’m sure they will love. If it is something that you are interested in and, maybe, have a passion for, that is something that you want to share. Your interests and passions will carry your career, so finding something in your internship and doing a little extra work to show it is a great way to show your curiosity.
I’ve never shown curiosity, so what should I do?
That is a lie. You have been curious ever since you were born. As an undergrad, you ask questions in class to better understand the material. You ask your friends questions to understand what they are interested in. Don’t let Corporate America make you lose your sense of curiosity.
Be an Old-School Communicator
Communication, of course, is important in life and in the business world. There are many different ways for you to communicate these days - email, instant message, text message, phone calls, etc. There is real value, however, in being an old-school communicator and leaving the newer communication tools by the wayside.
What is an old-school communicator?
Someone that communicates via old-school tools, like a phone or in-person conversations.
I have all these great new tools like email and instant message, why shouldn’t I use them?
You should use these tools, but in the right place and time. As an intern, it is easy to hide behind these tools due to their convenience and familiarity. Rather than being another intern that hides behind them, get out of your comfort zone a bit and call your manager or swing by their desk to talk to them.
Why should I strive to be an old-school communicator?
It will allow you to get your work done much quicker. If you have a question and pick up the phone, you will get your question answered right then and there. But if you emailed the question, it may take you eight hours to get a response. It also gives you the chance for additional face time with other employees. You create connections with people when conversing with them. Over email or instant message, it is incredibly challenging to create an actual connection. These connections will help you accomplish your goals and may give you a leg up in getting an offer to return the following summer.
I don’t like to call people or swing by their desk - can I use email instead?
As an undergrad, if you needed to talk to your friend to make plans for the weekend, you called or texted them in order to get an immediate response. Think of it the same way for work. A conversation with a colleague in-person or over the phone may seem a bit intimidating at first, but it will prove to be valuable for getting your work done in a timely manner. Building this skill set will enhance your ability to communicate and foster relationships.
Stay tuned for V2 of the 2016 Internship Guide coming next Monday, April 25!