Written by Michelle Rick + Edited by Chelsea DuDeVoire
“Passion is the difference between having a job and having a career.” -Anonymous
Your twenties can be an exciting and turbulent time in your life – and specifically in your career. For many, it’s the time when you begin to say “when I grow up” just a little bit less. At graduation, some of us have a faint idea of what success might look like. For others, it is gradually revealed to us as time goes on, and that’s okay.
One thing I know for sure is that I wouldn’t have gained the same traction in my career without first being someone’s intern - and then having the pleasure of working with interns of my own. Hiring and managing a team was a new experience that I embraced completely, and working with interns and watching their careers blossom has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my professional life.
Below are 5 of the most important lessons my interns have taught me:
1. A good attitude is your greatest asset. Now and for the rest of your life, attitude will always beat experience. Although I was hiring interns to help produce content for my company’s blog, I didn’t care as much about their writing samples as I did their eagerness.
What stood out to me among applicants were the enthusiastic ones who wanted to further their careers. Ambition breeds zeal, and zeal is not only great to have around, but gets the job done better than anything else. Seeing my team learn, engage, and eventually branch out to other teams and departments was proof. A good attitude will truly take you where you need to go.
2. Speak up. A great idea can come from anywhere. Never hold back in a meeting just because you don’t feel you have the experience to give your ideas a voice. Remember that your viewpoint is unique, and could be crucial to moving the needle.
The man in the pinstriped tie may be the Chief Marketing Officer, but as a millennial you know five new ways to reach an audience through social media. In this way, you’re indispensable. You bring a fresh perspective, and represent an up-and-coming generation that’s worth catering to.
3. Collaboration is where the magic happens. A list of ideas is great, but five lists of ideas that spark conversations generate more ideas. Having a team of creative innovators is a true asset for any department at any company, and the collaboration process is when the best ideas always emerge.
Just showing up to the table to engage in a brainstorming discussion is aways helpful, but being able to trust my team enough to delegate tasks without second thought was a bonus.
4. Today’s intern is tomorrow’s CEO. Exhibit A: Ursula Burns. She started at Xerox as a summer intern and became CEO 29 years later. Everyone starts somewhere. Motivated and eager first-time interns don't go unnoticed - don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
In the years since parting ways with my interns, I’ve had the chance to see them do amazing things: launch careers of their own, nurture their side hustles, even travel the world and document their lives through blogs. I’m not just proud of where they’ve gone, I’m excited to see where they’ll go.
5. It’s never too early to start networking. I loved watching my team bond with each other, and even years later, stay in touch with everyone at the company. Going back to #2, there’s no need to be afraid of striking up a conversation with the boss of your boss at the coffee maker.
At one point, I worked for another location within my company for two weeks. When I returned to my office, I was super impressed to hear that one of my interns had offered up her time to assist other teams while I was away -- and I know that my colleagues appreciated her help and took note of it as well. It’s a certainty that you won’t be at your job forever, and neither will your colleagues. Sometimes the professional world seems small, and a familiar face in a new office or networking event is always a pleasant thing. Don't burn bridges if you don't have to.
Finally, always follow the quintessential advice: work hard and be nice to people. In the end, it’s really all you need. The experience will come with the years.
Michelle is a Silicon Valley native and social media consultant. She's a fan of pizza, candles that smell like tropical fruit, good books, and impulse buys on international plane tickets.