As an intern, you will be competing with many others that are in the same position. You are an undergrad student with a summer internship, so is everyone else. So how do you make yourself stand out?
Be authentically interesting
How can I be interesting if I am not interesting?
Everyone, naturally, has something about them that makes them interesting. You may not recognize it at face value, but you have to have something. Think about what you like to do for fun, a passion you have, or a project you worked on. These all add up to make you interesting. For me, something that made me interesting during my internship was my love for baseball. I was able to share this with my manager, my team, and other interns and people knew me as someone who loved baseball.
I don’t want to seem really random in conversations, so how can I show I am interesting?
If you have never interned before, you may be thinking: “my interest has nothing to do with my job, so why does it matter?” That is a fair question. Sometimes you just need to start talking about something fun you did the previous weekend and why it was so fun. That will start a conversation with another employee that can lead to more personal discussions. You don’t need to force your interest into a conversation. It can come organically, but you need to figure out the best way to weave it into your conversation in order to make deeper connections.
I don’t want to share too much about my personal life, so how do I avoid doing that and balance being interesting?
Definitely do not share too much, like how you got too drunk last weekend. Of course, your topic of conversations should be work appropriate. Even though you may think others think your interest may be weird, if it makes you uniquely you, try bringing it up. Being too open about your personal life can seem overly forward and unprofessional, depending on the setting. So make sure to find the right balance of which interests to share.
Why is it important to share my interests?
It will create deeper connections with your colleagues. If you go the whole summer and only talk to your colleagues about work, you are digging your own grave. If you create a connection with your manager that is based on who you are, they will be much more likely to fight for you at the end of the summer to make sure you get an offer to come back. Your personal relationships and connections are key in the business world. And your interests, and you being interesting, are key to fostering these personal relationships. As an undergrad, you have shared your interests in order to build a network of friends. You discuss your interests with friends and they do the same, which creates a cycle of sharing information with one another to build deeper connections. Once you move to Corporate America, there is no reason to stop sharing your interests just because you are in a corporate environment. If you keep sharing your interests, you will be see the benefit.
Be Better than The Game
What is “The Game?”
It is what I (along with many others) referred to our internship experience. The reason it was dubbed “The Game” is because there was so much run around and competition to one-up the other interns. We were all shooting for the same thing: to get an offer for another internship or full-time position. So it made sense we were being somewhat competitive. But our competitive spirit was misguided.
Why do people play The Game?
The Game, as we played, was all about seeing what others did and doing the same thing, but better. For example, if one intern set up a lunch meeting with a senior manager to learn about their line of business, it was almost certain that 3 other interns would look for another senior manager or director to have lunch with. It's a cycle that spins out of control. Every working moment is spent thinking about what other people are doing and ways to do something larger than the next person. This paranoia is not healthy and leads to a lack of productivity.
Why should I be better than The Game?
Being better than The Game means taking a step back and realizing your situation and surroundings. Just because someone else sets up a lunch meeting does not mean you have to do the same thing. If you authentically want to set up a lunch meeting, do it. But don’t force yourself to do it just because you think it is required. I can say with near certainty that at any internship, the number of lunches you set up will not be deciding factor to your getting an offer to return to the company. Rather than focusing on The Game, channel your time, efforts, and energy into value-adding activities. What is your team working on that you can get your hands on and provide your perspective? Is there a side project you are interested in exploring? Engaging in activities that are valuable for the company and your development will be much more beneficial than taking part in a made-up competition.
How is this related to undergrad?
there are competitions to get into the business school or to get into a fraternity/sorority. You have to go through certain hoops in order to reach the end goal - get in. What did you do to make this happen? You followed the necessary requirements and acted like yourself in order to do your best. You didn’t force yourself to do a specific action based on perception unless it was completely required and mandatory for inclusion into the group or you were authentically drawn to take action. There is no reason not to continue this once you are in Corporate America. The Game is always present, but the setting changes. It is up to you to recognize when The Game is being played and identify the activities that actually provide you and others value.
The 2016 Internship Guide V3 is coming out next Monday, May 2.