Multiple Interns, Same Department: Good or Bad Idea?
As summer wraps up and Babson classes resume, I think about how happy students are to reunite with friends and our excitement when these friends are also our classmates. How different our college experience would be if each class was a private lesson between just the student and professor? Perhaps more engaging and in-depth, but certainly more intimidating and difficult to not have peers to lean on and study with. How come that feeling of comfort doesn’t always follow through when it comes to our internships, and how we behave with respective interns?
Listening to stories of my friends internships and reflecting on my own, it’s certainly a bag of mixed reviews when it comes to having other interns in the same department as you, doing the same work as you, and reporting to the same boss. For some friends, having multiple interns was a positive experience with interns working together in a group and thriving off collaboration. For other friends it created subtly tense working environments, a constant battle between who is the “better” intern and who is doing the most work. So what’s the secret to cracking the perfect “intern harmony”? Does this sensitive balance depend on the attitudes of the interns, the structure of the internship, or the behavior of the supervisor or boss?
For my internship experience with Union Square Hospitality Group, there were 15 interns in total that were assigned to 8 different restaurants/departments. I, as well as another intern, were assigned to Blue Smoke & Jazz Standard, USHG’s fine dining barbecue concept with a jazz club downstairs. In the first half of the internship we rarely worked together, with our manager consciously assigning us different shifts and positions of the restaurant to shadow. I remember feeling grateful the other intern was there, sneaking in conversations through passing to give heads up to the other on what to do and what not to do for a specific role, and always having someone to sit with for family meal.
The second half of the internship was where the teamwork began, working together on a variety of projects relating to training materials for the staff. This partnership involved a lot more checking in with one another on the status of our assignments, and approaching managers together rather than separately. To be quite honest, at first this was difficult considering I was experienced in academic group work in which most of our assignments were accomplished in meetings outside of class. It was frustrating to enter the office each day and be unable to jump start my work; I felt like I was never able to find a routine or be fully productive with so much communication and collaboration required.
But I remembered my DISC profile assessment from freshman year FME, and googled the “Steady” personality type to familiarize myself with a Steady’s weaknesses and strengths. And sure enough, Steadys are “stable and predictable” and like to “feel secure and stick with it.” That night I took a moment to acknowledge and feel pride for my strengths and contributions to teams, but also reflect on my weaknesses and how they may be intervening within my internship. The next day I pushed my strength of working in harmonious ways with team members, so that I could boost the other intern’s skills of enthusiasm and creativity. I allowed myself to tryout the “fun” and “social” approach to achieving tasks, rather than the focused and solo route I usually take.
Although there are certainly internship horror stories out there of overly competitive work environments, I believe working with other interns is beneficial for personal growth. Perhaps I could have checked off more on my daily to-do list if I worked alone, but I would not have been reminded of the importance of team dynamics. I would not have had the opportunity to check my own pride, and realize that it’s okay to try out different working styles and broaden my team work. experience My internship would not have been as fulfilling without that lesson, and I have the other intern to thank. As I progress within my career, I’m excited to see how important of a role employee interaction plays out, in different companies and internships, and in real “adult life” jobs!