It feels good to be back and continuing to make sure that millennial voices are being heard on issues that impact millennials! As I was thinking about this month’s theme of Summer Internships, I couldn’t help but think that, to me, being a good intern means being a good professional which also really means being a good, responsible person. As vague as that sounds, I think that in every situation I put myself in, I bring my whole self to ensure that I can be seen as someone who values and respects myself and others. When it comes to professional life, including internships and volunteer experiences, here are a few things to consider:
Get organized. This may be your first experience throwing professional responsibilities and relationships into your already busy life, and it can be difficult to juggle the changes. Don’t let new hours, new locations, new names or new responsibilities get in the way of your ability to do good work. Get yourself organized right away. Find a system that works for you and make it consistent – remember, it takes 21 days to create a new habit. One that I learned that made my life easier is to have both a To Do list and a Task list. Your To Do list contains all of the tasks that YOU need to execute and should be prioritized. Your Task list includes any items that you may have delegated to someone else or tasks that might be part of a project that you are a part of that you need to monitor. Remember to have names and due dates along with your Task and To Do lists, and any items that you are responsible for that might hold up the work of someone else should become priorities.
Be accountable. In my work with kids, teaching young people to be accountable for their actions is a daily occurrence. It should be for adults as well. Self-accountability takes discipline and the ability to not only hold the mirror up to yourself, but to face it head on; to not look the other way. In doing so, you are empowering yourself by demonstrating to others that you aren’t afraid to admit faults, are committed to a continuous cycle of improvement and, perhaps most powerful, you are allowing others to do the same. While your time during your summer internship may be short, the impact you have on those you work with can have a lasting impression that may also give yourself a great resource of champions, references and mentors in future endeavors.
Know when to step up and when to step back. As the new, not to mention short-term, person on the team, it is a bit of a dance to learn the culture of the organization and customs of the team you work with. You must know when to step up and make yourself heard when it comes to a new idea, offering to take on a project outside of your original job description or during staff meetings. You must also know when it is best to step back and learn from those around you. Don’t think that to be seen, you always have to be heard. You have great ideas and a fresh perspective, but you must also learn what the team can and can’t do due to organizational structure, capacity and any time constraints.
Stop calling it “just” an internship. You’ll only get out of it what you put in, right? So stop minimizing the commitment that YOU agreed to and do good work. If you treat your position with respect and accountability, others will too. Take advantage of the experience you are getting and the people around you who may be a resource now and in the future. Be on time, ask questions, hold yourself accountable and make the experience worthwhile, because it’s much more than “just” an internship.
Photo by: Gusbodr