As the summer is approaching, it is officially intern season in the office. If you work in an office, you know this means there is a group of young and energized student workers ready to stride through your office doors, share their ideas, and make change!
If you haven’t worked with an intern in an office, you may have a few opinions about them from society’s stereotypes and perceptions. The movies commonly show an intern’s typical task is to get coffee for the team. They are usually nervous and shy employees. Conversely, interns can also be seen as one of the smartest, most tech-advanced employees. They have unique perspectives and come from a different generation than the rest of the workforce, therefore, add diversity of thought to the team.
In college, I was fortunate enough to have an 11-month internship as a Marketing Intern at a Mid-Western Bank. It was transformational for me. I strongly believe that internships help prepare students for post-graduation jobs. I’m so grateful for all of the colleagues who helped me learn and grow. I asked a lot of questions, some silly, some easy, and some that no one could answer. Patience and kindness are very important traits to have when working with an intern and I’m lucky to have found these traits in many of my colleagues.
The most valuable thing I learned from my internship is the importance of confidence. My role involved regularly meeting with a lot of new people, both internal and external to the company. Meeting someone new always starts with an introduction. I developed a bad habit early on by introducing myself after all my colleagues did as “just an intern.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but these three words expressed my lack of confidence to any new person I met. It showed how little I thought of my role and importance at the company. My intern manager gave me feedback about this habit. When I unintentionally continued to do it, he eventually called me out in front of others whenever I said it. It was a mind shift that I needed to present myself as a confident, strong worker.
I wanted to share this story with others for a few reasons. For one, this story shows that I, who was an intern myself, fell for society’s perception that interns are just employees at the bottom of the totem pole. I didn’t realize my value and the opportunity I was being given to be seen as an equal with the colleagues I worked with in the company. Additionally, I want those who work with interns to take note of my manager’s persistence to change my mindset. He really challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and introduce myself as “The So-and-So Bank Marketing Intern for Northern Ohio Region.” This name was way more impressive than “just an intern” and it accurately represented my role in the company. I was the ONLY marketing intern in the regional office. I competed for the internship spot against many other qualified students. I needed to be proud of myself and confident everyday I showed up to work and by using my real job title, I felt it. I’m grateful for this experience and learning this lesson.
In summary, if you’re a college student about to start your summer internship, be strong and show those lucky colleagues what you’re made of! As one of my favorite authors Rachel Hollis, says “if you want something you never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.” In my case, I had to be confident with senior executives. You have to give yourself a chance to fail or you’ll never succeed! I believe you’re more than just an intern and you should believe it too.
If you’re a parent, relative, mentor, friend, etc. to a college intern, encourage them to be authentic and confident! Your words will make a difference.
And finally, if you’re a colleague in an office working with an intern, be supportive and give feedback to help them grow. You know they are not just an intern. The more you can support them, the better the whole team’s experience will be for the summer. The expert in anything was once a beginner (intern).
Chelsea Burbridge currently works at a Fortune 100 company as a Requirements Analyst in the IT department. She’s a resident of downtown Columbus and enjoys walking places as much as she’s able to do so. In her free time, she loves to watch drama and reality television shows and travel the world. Follow her on Instagram @Cbridge03.