NAVIGATING THROUGH INTERNSHIP HURDLES.
This summer, having completed two internships, I can affirm that each of the companies I was working with sought to test different skills or abilities in the interns working with them. In retrospect, I recognize that the hurdles I overcame must have been intentionally put to test how I handled each situation. From the challenges I faced, I have summarized some of the key lessons learnt which should be useful to any student looking to succeed in a competitive internship. I do this by vaguely describing the scenarios I was faced with and then highlighting the major takeaway from each experience.
- The simple tasks make the most difference
In the first few weeks of either internship, I spent time familiarizing myself with the work that the teams I was assigned to did. In one instance, I was asked to read through a report that the team I was in prepared annually. Simple as this seemed, the challenge was that even with a keen eye and ardent note-taking, I had read through the report within the first three hours of the morning. Nonetheless, I painstakingly went through it severally, paying attention to all the nuances such that at the end of the day, I felt I knew the report at heart. Indeed, the effort I put in this simple task paid off tremendously during the next few weeks in which I was assigned tasks related to the report. Early the next day, I was asked to go through the current year’s report and filter out certain keywords that would be listed separately. This task was indeed a close follow-up to that of reading through the report . I was able to complete the task by the end of the day because I had mentally taken note of many of the required keywords the previous day. As such, I could easily filter out the keywords without constantly referring back to the previous report. I had also noted certain patterns within the report which allowed me to know precisely the areas I should look into or the keywords that accompanied certain sections. This meant that I worked quickly through the task and had ample time to go back and check my work again, in order to ensure quality and accuracy of the work I handed in. The attention I paid to the first task continued to serve me well in subsequent tasks because I was efficient in doing the tasks assigned; living up to my personal principle of doing my best to finish work assigned in the morning, on the same day that it is given. My supervisor was quick to note and appreciate the effort I put in. This outward recognition added immensely to the intrinsic satisfaction and pride I already felt; thus boosting my confidence and serving to further elevate my motivation and performance. Similarly, a few weeks later a senior person at the organization requested that I see her in order to carry out a task for her. Excited as I was to do this, it was slightly disheartening to find that the task was gift wrapping. All the same, the effort I put in to uniquely package the gift boxes matched the heartfelt appreciation that I received from her for carrying out the task in an outstanding way.
- Work cohesively and form meaningful relationships with co-workers
In the course of the internship, I was introduced to another intern. We were assigned a project to do together which would occupy a majority of our time at the organization. The challenge in this was not that we did not get along, although tongue-in-cheek- I was from Babson and she was from Bentley- but rather that we had very different work ethics. This difference was evident in the first few weeks as we discussed how to go about doing the project. Moreover, although we had previously been working with different teams in different locations, our supervisor stated that we needed to stick together for the remainder of the internship. As such, even though we each wanted to continue working with our teams and deepening the connections we were forming, we had to compromise on what we wanted in order to accomplish what we needed to do. Babson students who have gone through the first year are familiar with the signature Babson course- Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship, and have thus gone through the Organizational Behavior curriculum that emphasizes on the stages of teaming: “Forming, Norming, Storming and Performing”. Looking back, these are the precise stages we went through, albeit in different order, as our storming stage came early in our teaming process before we eventually created norms to aid our working relationship. Navigating through the “storming” stage of our working relationship was indeed more challenging than the project itself, and could easily have caused us to under-perform. The major lesson I learnt from this was the importance of flexing to the people one is working with. It would have been very easy for us to clash, and consistently do so for the entirety of the project, but at some point we realized that we would be stuck in a quagmire if we did not rise above our petty misunderstandings. Eventually, we both had to compromise and meet each other halfway. This was a major turning point in our relationship because it was only after we had come to this realization, that we were able to focus our attention primarily on the project, and less on arguing with each other. It was also much easier to build rapport with each other and we became quite close after resolving the conflict. I believe it also bolstered our performance because we were able to leverage our different perspectives and work ethics. During this time, I also chose to read a book about negotiation skills which provided several useful lessons that improved my understanding of the situation we faced.
- Be prepared, flexible and dynamic.
In the final weeks of the internship, it happened that as interns, we had an entire day of training, and so did not report to the teams we worked with. The following morning, I found a backlog of numerous emails sent the previous day. Much to my surprise, my supervisor had arranged for an impromptu shadow day in another service line for that day, in lieu of a decision I would soon be making concerning the various service lines. There were also several emails giving me instructions as well as tasks that I needed to complete urgently. Flexibility meant that I had to rearrange the commitments made for that day in order to meet the expectations of my supervisor. Furthermore, although I had not prepared myself mentally for the shadow day, I had to put my best foot forward while meeting and working with the person for the first time. I also had to follow-up on the emails I had received and act on them immediately. Indeed, I was under pressure that day. In another instance, the theme of a project I was working on was suddenly changed a few days to the final presentation. Thus, although my team had compiled reports corresponding to a specific theme, we had to adapt the presentation to suit the change in theme. As expected, my team had very conflicting emotions about the late change in expectations from our supervisor. All the same, we opted to flex in order to meet the expectations set upon us.
Of course, there were numerous other lessons that came with interning in two different organizations, however, these are the major challenges I overcame, which ingrained in me the lessons outlined above. Certainly, I do expect that there are many other skills/abilities that interns are tested for, because as recruiters do insist; the internship is an on-site prolonged interview process. I do hope nonetheless, that the lessons aforementioned give students an idea as to what they should expect in an internship, as well as giving them an edge in meeting the expectations of the organization they intern with.