Get your own coffee: My 3 tips for a successful internship
If you thought internships just involved making coffees and shadowing colleagues... think again.
Well, you will be glad to hear that for the most part, my internship was printing, filing and coffee purchasing free. Hurrah! I did in fact have a true job, with full time responsibilities and a manager who went out of her way to ensure I was fulfilling my personal development goals. So, as I look back on my year at CA Technologies I would like to share with you some advice on ensuring you have a successful internship.
Busy is good
On my first day at CA Technologies, I was told by Naomi (the previous Communications Intern) to say ‘yes’ to everything and get involved in as much as you can. I took her advice and quickly signed myself up to playing basketball and netball during my lunch breaks, signed myself up to volunteer at two CSR events in one month and began asking my team if I could help them with any tasks.
I made it my mission to get my calendar as busy as possible. Yes, to begin with I may have felt like I had never had so much work in my life (partly my fault), and I’ll go on to discuss this later, but I quickly learnt that I was becoming far more efficient at getting work done and felt comfortable taking on increased workloads. In fact, by being busy at work I felt more accomplished leaving the office at the end of the day and had a new-found appreciation for my weekends. You will also quickly learn that the more you get yourself involved with projects, the more opportunity you will have to build trust with your manager and wider team.
Understand your audience – External vs. internal
Coming into a large multinational company, you must quickly adapt and understand the internal and external audiences. These are the questions I suggest you should ask yourself upon joining:
Regardless of your role in the business, being able to identify the answers to these questions will help you identify the wider purpose of tasks you will be set by your manager or team. For example, when I was tasked with project managing the EMEA Employee Kick Off, I had to be mindful of multiple stakeholders from senior executives in the business, right through to the catering staff.
Each audience represented a different challenge and I had to tailor my communications to each one. The AV and equipment engineers were not happy that catering had set up tables with water near the stage, health and safety wanted to ensure that the professional seating company had left plenty of room for colleagues to access fire exits and so on… It was no easy task!
I soon learnt that some stakeholders preferred phone calls over emails to chase actions and others preferred face-to-face interactions. I had to remind myself that each stakeholder was vital in ensuring the success of Kick Off, so by tailoring my approach to each audience, all the actions in the run up to the event were completed in time and I was left feeling as prepared as I could for the day.
Work/life balance is important
I remember feeling overwhelmed and totally incapable during my first few weeks at the company. I found myself constantly catching up on work and always feeling exhausted the minute I got home. I knew this wasn’t right and that I had to do something about it.
This is when I became best friends with my calendar. I started blocking out time for myself to get things done and made sure I had plans for each evening after work ( be it sports, going out for a drink with the interns or watching movies) so that I had something to look forward to when I got home.
I began prioritizing my actions and making sure I took time to chat with colleagues at the coffee machine and make the most of my lunch breaks. I spent more time getting to know my team and their personal lives beyond the office desk.
I found out that my manager Sarah enjoys running and hosting dinner parties with friends on the weekend, that Julie (who sits next to me) has two children and has a passion for Astrology and that Rebecca (who sits on the other side of me) was busy planning her wedding, alongside work!
It was comforting knowing that they too had to balance their work and life and that I wasn’t alone in this. Crucially, I made time for these conversations to happen and I strongly encourage any intern to do the same with their team. Ask your colleagues how they balance work and life and get their advice. Finding this balance will definitely lay the foundations for a rewarding internship.