Year 1 is in the books and your mind has finally decompressed during your brief summer break. You said your goodbyes to classmates-now some of your closest friends-and finally re-enter the world of the employed, at least for the summer. By this point, you’re used to being flung into the unknown. How different could a new internship really be?
I walked through the doors for Day 1 at 3M and felt a healthy balance of confidence and anxiety. I had binders full of frameworks and several consulting projects under my belt. I had also fallen on my face several times-oh, that Effective Communication class-and knew that I still had a long way to go.
If the focus of MBA classes is equipping, the internship is the proving ground where the rubber meets the road. No more case studies. No more templates or projects nicely queued up. This is the real world with ambiguous projects and real opportunities to serve your clients and business partners.
One month into my internship, I decided to take a step back and ask myself, “If you could talk to your pre-internship self, what advice would you give?”
Here is my answer—my Top 5 by Internship Week 5.
1. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed…it’s a lot of “new”. My first week was a whirlwind, my mind completely fried by the end of every day. I felt pressure to perform (for my own sake and for the reputation of Kelley and my 3M team), but to sustain that for a summer felt almost impossible. Then I remembered, “I’ve had a lot of ‘new’ in this week: new company, new city, new job function, new industry, new apartment, new traffic (yes, rush hour in the Twin Cities is worse than Bloomington). It’s normal to feel overwhelmed.” That was one of the most freeing reminders. Yes, the internship will fly by, but allow yourself time to acclimate to a new routine.
2. What question am I trying to answer? I ask myself this question multiple times every day. Whether you are scoping a project, immersing yourself in research, or building a presentation, always go back to the core of the project and what you are trying to accomplish. This will help you prioritize your work and eliminate unnecessary tasks.
3. Every day counts. A Kelley alum advised me to write down my weekly project and personal goals every Monday. There is an important balance here. They must move your project forward to the next milestone, but they must be feasible to complete by Friday. As a result, you will have to eliminate excess tasks and meetings to center on the core of your project and avoid wasting time. You will have days that wander off task; it’s inevitable. However, by regularly refocusing on the core of the project (“What question am I trying to answer?”) and having your weekly list of goals, you can quickly correct your trajectory rather than losing an entire week.
4. Remember, you’re a human being…and they are, too. Take care of yourself. Go home at a reasonable time, clear your mind, do something fun and active, and get sleep. You NEED a break. If you don’t, you will inevitably get sick, which you can’t afford because “Every day counts.” And remember, your coworkers are humans, too. Find out what your coworkers value and ask them about it. Whether it’s their 15-month-old child, the World Cup, or the latest Star Wars movie, empathize with those around you and learn about what they value.
5. Don’t forget where you came from. I sometimes try to bury Corporate Finance and Excel background in the past. But just today, that skill set was extremely relevant for one of my Marketing projects. Don’t discount your background and everything you’ve learned up to this point, whether as a teacher or a sales rep, an opera singer or an analyst, a professional athlete or a CPA…you bring so much to the table, and that perspective is sometimes exactly what your employer needs.
It is only a matter of weeks before I return to Bloomington, but I know there are still countless lessons to learn and opportunities to apply my Top 5 list. I am excited to lean in and see what the last half of my internship has to offer.
Best of luck this summer, Class of 2019! Get out there and crush it! Let’s show the world what we’re made of!