Our Northeastern Co-op, who’s been with us for the past 6 months, is awesome! We cannot underestimate what she’s brought to our organization in her short time with us. We’re sorry to see her go. Kristen didn’t come to us with years of experience, but she came with three qualities that are key to her success and would be key to the success for any intern.
Like all marketing organizations, whether they be agency or internal, the goal is always to do more with less. Even with the best of plans, there’s a frenzy to accomplish goals and objectives and a never ending array of tactics going on at once. The demands are such that each member of the team really needs to be active in the process of helping to reach the goals. No slacking!
So, in walks a new employee, but one who’s only going to be around for 6 months and one who’s still in college. Sure, there’s an orientation and training, and that helps everyone to get comfortable, but even with a defined role for the intern, there’s always a question as to how much responsibility to give. This comes with the concern about how much management time will be necessary to keep the intern on track. That said, you plow ahead and then it’s up to the intern to really make a difference. The successful ones, like Kristen, do three important things.
Kristen practiced “active listening”. Of course there are instructions that need to be followed and you have to listen to understand. But to be active in listening means you’re not just asking questions to clarify, but more importantly, you’re listening for the priority and nuance. Every company has their own “language” when employees have been together for a while. To jump in and really interpret what’s being said in a way that translates into the right priority, the right action and the right outcome is a skill. I’m not really sure where Kristen learned this skill, but she was thoughtful in her approach to each assignment in a way that went beyond simple instructions.
#2 Figure It Out
Kristen didn't just practice active listening. She took every project and figured it out on her own. I’m not saying there weren’t great instructions, there were. But Kristen, and good interns, take those instructions and make their own way. It’s about taking the initiative, running into obstacles along the way and the developing your own method of getting things done. Of course, as an intern, it’s easy enough to continue to ask a more experienced person what to do and how to do it. The great intern makes their own way, and if they’re like Kristen, they make a way that’s better than anything they could have gotten instructions for. I was amazed (even though maybe I shouldn’t have been) and how Kristen figured out new and different ways to reach the goal. Being organized and creative helps!
#3 Be Flexible
What business doesn’t have to shuck and jive? Priorities change because something new becomes hot. Even the idea for what you’re going to do can change midstream. Interns probably have the advantage of youth, which is to say they don’t have a “way” to be stuck in, but the best of interns are flexible and willing to pick up the ball and run in a new direction without missing a beat. We asked a lot of Kristen, sometimes changing the very job description in the middle of the day, but she stuck with it. It helps to smile while you’re doing it. She did that too.
So, it’s probably clear we’re going to miss Kristen. An intern that brings energy, drive and interest to the job is great. One that listens, figures it out and adapts is even better. I used to start every meeting, with a client or internal, by turning to Kristen and saying, now Kristen will run the meeting. This started on day one, and I’m sure she had no idea what to think of that. Truth is though, that by the time the 6 months was up, she could have done it! Thanks Kristen! Best of luck in where ever you land after college.