Advice from TransLoc’s Director of Strategy and Partnerships on how to make the most of your summer internship.
This week, TransLoc’s interns started work. Each year, TransLoc hires a handful of interns across departments to help us tackle projects and help them gain work experience. We take onboarding seriously here at TransLoc, even for our interns. They are welcomed with balloons, company swag, and approximately five pounds of their favorite candy. With all the Reese’s Cups, Kit-Kats, and Sour Patch Kids we have floating around, it’s a good thing walking trails surround our office and a gym sits right across the road.
In addition to the copious amounts of sugar, one of our other onboarding practices is a one on one with each department head to share how their department advances TransLoc’s mission, introduce the other people on the team, and share any other TransLoc wisdom worth sharing.
This past week, during my meeting with our new interns Kayleigh, Joyce, Nancy, and Jess and our new salesperson Dustin, I introduced them to my department and also provided some advice on how to make the most of their experience at TransLoc. Beyond their usefulness in the short term, these tools can also help them identify compatible organizations to work for, wherever they end up later in their career.
Here’s the advice I shared:
Turn your inexperience into an asset
It’s easy for someone new to an organization to question their ability to contribute, especially those just starting out in internships or entry-level positions. What do you know about the industry? Or the products? Or even the company culture? Probably not much. And while this lack of knowledge undermines many newbies’ confidence to contribute, that’s a mistake. Your very inexperience is what makes you so valuable.
You possess a perspective that is free from the assumptions or blind spots that those of us who have been neck deep in the business for years have missed. So how do you turn this inexperience into an asset? Ask good, hard questions. Listen carefully. Apply logic to what you hear and politely ask for clarification if things don’t make sense. Bad organizations will be threatened by this questioning and it’s better you learn that quickly. Good organizations will welcome this approach and your contribution to the “marketplace of ideas.”
Make your teammates look good
In any organization, there is always more work to be done than can be possibly be done. Only the most effective “Essentialists” will ruthlessly prioritize the most important things and clear the decks of the extraneous fluff that doesn’t move the needle. For the rest of us, we’re in a constant battle between the urgent, the important, and the “Holy Crap.”
Recognizing that your boss and your colleagues likely exist in this world is the first step towards using this reality to your and the organization’s benefit. The more you can anticipate their needs, ask for work, or just jump in and start identifying problems you can tackle, the more they will appreciate you. Another benefit: it allows you to practice a critical skill that will be necessary as you grow in your career: making a recommendation. Many times, your boss will take your recommendation and implement your ideas. Other times will be opportunities to get great feedback on what your recommendation may be missing. It can be scary to open yourself up in this way, but great managers appreciate this initiative.
You won’t work here forever. Whatever job you’re in, it will be for a finite time, even if you do not always know the specific length of time that will be. So it’s important to begin with the end in mind. As Yogi Berra so eloquently stated: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.”
So think about what those bullet points are that you want on your resume when you finish your internship or job. Is there a specific skill or software you’d like to learn or a specific type of project you want to gain experience in? Share that with your manager so that they can help figure out a way to make that happen, which is easier if the skills you want to learn are something your team needs.
A caveat: beginning with the end in the mind doesn’t mean that you run as a one-man wolfpack, pursuing projects that benefit only you. It simply ensures that both your interests and the organization’s interests align so that you both receive value, which is how any good relationship works. The motivation sweet spot is where your interests and career goals intersect with the needs of your team and manager.
What other advice would you share with our newest employees as they begin their TransLoc careers?
P.S. If you would like to work at TransLoc–either as a full-time employee or as intern–please let us know!