If you’ve been following this Internship Success series -which I hope you have- you’ve already learned how to handle your internship as an interview and the importance of connecting with your manager before you start.
After establishing open lines of communication with your manager, the next step to get off to a great start in your internship is to thoroughly understand your priorities.
Why is it important to focus your attention on understanding, before taking action?
Research has shown that when taking on new assignments and activities, high performers ask what they are going to learn from the experience, and understand the central importance of lifelong learning to career advancement.
Making an effort to thoroughly comprehend every aspect of your work – instead of just guessing – will allow you to meet the company’s expectations and excel.
How can you do so? Here are 5 practical ways.
Go Through Each Task and Make Sure You Understand.
We get it, your first gig in the real world can be scary. There are many new things to learn and do, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
But try to take things step by step. During the first few weeks, your main goal should be to soak up information and figure things out.
Doing your research and giving your tasks some thought beforehand, will show your initiative, they’ll see you’re an action-oriented type of person.
Create your own knowledge base with what you learn about your role and analyze all the possibilities (reasonably) to be prepared to overcome any obstacle on your way.
You’ll likely have some information gaps and need help to solve those doubts.
There is a lot to learn as a new hire.
As painful as it might be, asking questions is a walk in the park compared with failing badly, or making a mistake due to lack of information. This could cost the company serious repercussions or even harm your reputation.
What’s the lesson here? Spend some time brainstorming and writing down all the questions you want to ask your manager or peers. You’ll thank yourself later.
Asking a lot of questions is completely fine (most of the time) and will allow you to learn and develop in your career journey.
However, you’ll want to:
- Prioritize the most important information. You may need permission to do something, receive advice, feedback or validation. Make sure you ask the most urgent questions first. Decide what’s necessary, and what you can probably live without knowing at the moment. Be strategic and specific.
- Find the right time to ask questions. Does your manager like to be asked questions via email, one-on-one meeting with you, or group call? Consider your manager’s preferences and adapt as much as possible.
As an intern, you’re not expected to know everything.
A big part of your manager’s work is to explain to you how to do your job more effectively and how the organization works. So go ahead and ask what you need to get clarity.
At the same time, it’s essential to appreciate your co-workers’ willingness to break down things to you, and also be ready to collaborate with the team.
Did you accomplish your tasks and deliver what was expected, on time? Awesome!
Do you know what’s even better? Taking advantage of it, by asking your co-workers for feedback and getting more industry insights.
Even if you made a mistake, take the initiative to discuss how to do things better next time. Give yourself permission to fail, but most importantly to learn and bounce back.
And if you’re a fellow perfectionist and have a hard time doing so, focus on practicing self-compassion. It will come in handy.
Don’t Leave The Meeting Unsure About What You Are Supposed To Get Done and When.
Not making full use of meetings shows a lack of appreciation for your manager’s time and energy. Acknowledge that’s the time slot they’ve saved for providing the team with instructions and clarification, and seize the opportunity.
Going to the meeting prepared, thinking ahead of time, and writing down your comments, updates, questions, and concerns will make a difference in how much you participate and what you get out of the meeting.
Understanding What Quality Means To Your Manager
Everyone’s different. You already know that. But when you’re at work it is very easy to fall into the trap of assuming what others think, including your manager.
Ask yourself, what does your manager value the most? Is it speed, sticking to the instructions, coming up with innovative solutions, or other things?
You’ll be able to answer that question if you are observing, listening, taking its comments/suggestions very seriously, and of course asking directly for clarification. Maybe you’ve been focusing more on something they won’t value as much or being too hard on yourself.
Prioritize what your manager prioritizes.
The sooner you understand how things get done, the sooner you’ll start making a meaningful contribution.
Do you have any personal goals for this internship that you would like to include in your top priorities? Share it with your manager or co-workers! They may want to help you achieve them. Chances are they can even integrate them into the projects that they give you.
Don’t forget to do your best and enjoy the experience. That’s the main priority.