October 17th, 2017
Independence, Initiative, and Intuition: The Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned as a Stout Heart Intern
Though it feels like I started working for Stout Heart but yesterday, my internship is somehow already at an end. As my last day as an intern approaches, I find myself reflecting on the past few months and the advice I’ve received from the Stout Heart crew during my time here.
Perhaps most importantly I’ve learned to be proactive. This advice is vital to succeeding as an intern (or as an employee in general) but it’s also something that is best learned through practice. When I first started at Stout Heart I found it tempting to ask questions about every little thing; I felt it was better to ask before doing anything rather than accidentally make a wrong move. Though it is necessary to make sure you’re doing productive work, this doesn’t mean pestering your boss every 20 minutes. Bosses are busy people and they will appreciate your ability to make your own work and figure out what it is they need. Be independent (though don’t go rogue!) and don’t depend on your boss to guide you every step of the way.
In a similar vein, don’t focus on what the job should do for you but what you can do for the job. Of course it’s important to do work that advantages you (whether that’s by advancing your career, well-being, or bank account) but you won’t get ahead if your mentality is that the job exists to serve you. Like I said, be proactive and figure out what the company may be missing or what work you could do that would be most helpful for them. It’s true—sometimes a job may not be right for you and as an intern a lot of jobs may not feel truly fulfilling (though luckily this wasn’t my experience with Stout Heart!), but your first step shouldn’t be to lament. Instead, take initiative and figure out what you can do to bolster the company. Very often the lucky side effect of this is that you’ll be able to take on a challenge and do something that will be valuable both to you and your employers.
Hand-in-hand with embracing your independence (within reason of course), you should recognize your own ability and interact with your co-workers as equals. Remain aware that as an intern you probably don’t have the experience or skills of your co-workers, but don’t undermine your own abilities simply because you’re younger or less knowledgeable. You can still be respectful of your superiors without putting yourself down. And, though it should be self-explanatory, treating everyone as an equal also means you should avoid putting yourself above anyone. Nothing ruins an office environment quite like a supercilious intern.
Try to remember too that you may not always know what you’re doing but you’re not the only one. Everyone, at some point or another, is just giving it their best guess. It can be easy, especially as an intern, to believe that everyone else has it figured out but you. Not only is this not true, that frame of mind will only serve to psych you out.
Finally, something that applies everywhere but especially at Stout Heart (where everyone works in such close proximity): work with people (and a boss) you like. This isn’t always possible but, when you can, you should try to find a job with a community environment you enjoy. Very often the people define the job more than the actual work does and you should try to surround yourself with co-workers that you like or, at the very least, respect.
The bottom line: trust in your own ability, take initiative, and get to know your fellow employees. Try to soak in as much as you can and don’t forget that your co-workers are great resources for learning about the working world. Maybe your internship is a perfect fit or maybe it’s not quite what you expected, but whatever the case there’s something to learn in every single job and it’s up to you to discover what that is.