Often, we interns sell ourselves short. We take any task we’re given, be it grunt work or office chores, and graciously accept the shiny new line on our resume. But interns can have a real impact on an organization, and the truly standout ones have the opportunity to gain valuable experience beyond their job description.
Since starting at Gorilla 76 last May, I’ve been on a similar journey. This post is a peek into the mindset that has enabled me to take on more responsibility and leave my mark at Gorilla.
Start with the right mentality: you’re not just an intern
You might be a future employee. You’re a network connection the company will have down the road. You’re an endless source of potential. Don’t justify mediocre work with the mindset of “well, I’m just an intern” — because you’re not. Hold yourself to the same standard as your full-time, salaried co-workers.
When I write for Gorilla’s website, I’m not “just an intern.” I’m a writer. If I didn’t strive for the same level of quality as our full-time writers, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be published. And you know what? It’s that standard of quality that has pushed me to become better in everything I do.
Work like you’ve got something to prove (because you do, and so does everyone else)
The idea of “proving yourself” feels indicative of a toxic work environment, but the truth is, everyone has to prove themselves. When that extra effort and improvement isn’t recognized and rewarded, that’s when things start to get toxic. Luckily, that’s not the case at Gorilla.
My tasks weren’t too complex when I first started. It was some basic research, manual prospecting, keyword research, etc. However, as I turned in high-quality work for those low-level tasks, my coworkers began to see me as someone they could trust to get things done, and I was given more and more challenging work. I eventually got to the point where one of our founders, Joe, trusted me to research and revise our process for an ongoing business development initiative (and write about it, too!)
Seek feedback, but don’t require hand-holding
As I was trusted with those more challenging tasks, my supervisors would tell me to turn in my “30%” first. For example, if I was to create a list of 30 target companies for an ABM campaign, I would generate the first five to 10 and then seek feedback.
Clarifying task details and asking for constructive criticism shows you’re proactive, detail-oriented and professional. Let’s be clear, there’s a big difference between that and your team having to “hold your hand.” Here are some quick tips to avoid hand-holding:
- Take detailed notes when you are briefed
- Always try to figure something out on your own before asking your supervisor (Use your resources!)
- Meet deadlines without having to be reminded
Ask to learn
The best intern is not always the one with the most skills and experience, but it’s almost always the one with the most motivation to learn and grow. I was hired into our strategy department at Gorilla 76, but since then I have worked on content, business development efforts and project management tasks. There are now three additional departments in the company that can utilize my skills because I took the initiative to learn from them. Here are some good ways to step up and show you’re eager to learn:
- Ask to shadow other roles in the organization
- When you have downtime, offer to help other departments
- Partake in any professional development offered
Think beyond the task
Revise the process of a mundane task to make it more efficient. Provide your recommendations and conclusions from a research task. Offer up new ideas. When you’re given a task, think to yourself: “what extra value can I add to this?”
Not all your suggestions will be taken, but making suggestions in the first place shows you’re committed to the growth of the company. Your supervisors will take note of that. Just last week I gave a whole presentation on proposed new strategies for link-building and guest blogging. I was able to do that because I looked beyond the task and found areas of improvement as I was building links and pitching content.
Every intern can leave an impact if they are determined to do so. Employers know they’re going to have to teach you along the way, but if you’re willing to invest in them as much as they’re willing to invest in you, you’re going to impress them. I’m thankful to have landed a gig with an employer that’s allowed me to maximize my experience. I hope this advice helps you do the same.