What You Give, What We Gain

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By Laura Welch, Braven Volunteer and Talent and Diversity Manager at Citi

 

You have ten weeks (or maybe eleven or twelve if you are lucky!) during an internship to prove that you possess the scrappiness, smarts, leadership skills, and ingenuity to earn yourself a full-time position at one of our nation’s top employers.

How do successful interns do it? What do the best interns do differently? A few things. Let me explain.

Laura WelchAbout me: I currently work at Citi, a global financial institution, as a talent and diversity manager. I have worked in project management, consulting, and HR across different industries. I have had the distinct privilege to mentor and coach numerous interns over the years and want to introduce you to what “great” looks like. In doing so, I hope you walk away with a better sense of what the best interns do differently.

 

Take Ownership

I mentored a rising senior in a diversity HR internship over the course of a summer. For better or worse, this intern was assigned a manager who provided little direction and feedback and often did not come into work. This intern could have decided to disengage based on the behavior of the manager but she did just the opposite. One day, the intern’s manager failed to show up at the office and this manager was responsible for taking over sixty interns to a baseball game. This intern, realizing what was at stake, reached out to two of her manager’s direct reports and offered to take the group to the baseball game and ensure all the logistics were in order. She didn’t complain, she leveraged the necessary resources to execute the event, and she got the job done.

 

Think Outside the Box

This summer, I have had the pleasure of getting to know an intern who embodies courage and intellectual curiosity that is truly inspiring. She was assigned a data-driven summer project from her manager and dutifully got to work. However, within the first two weeks, she uncovered perplexing trends in the data that went against her original hypothesis and upon this discovery, she asked her manager if she could take her project in a different direction. This intern wasn’t afraid to ask the hard questions, challenge existing assumptions, and come up with creative, simple solutions to issues that had befuddled our organization for years.

 

Build Authentic Relationships

I have seen many interns attempt to meet with every senior person within their functional area over the course of their internshipsometimes to the detriment of their day-to-day work. The most successful interns, however, are those who build authentic connections based on their interestsboth personal and professional. Instead of only looking to build relationships with senior people, these interns built relationships with fellow interns, peers, administrative assistants, and people outside of their functional area.

So what do the best interns do differently? Undoubtedly, they take ownership, think outside the box, and build authentic relationships. However, what they do that is truly special is that they approach the internship with the following mentality:

“I will make this company a little better as a result of the work I do and how I show up during the summer.”  

 

Internships are a two-way street. Companies want you to have an amazing summer experience and will hopefully provide you with meaningful work, thoughtful managers, and great mentors. The other side of this equation is what you can GIVE to the organization. As your close out your summer internship and look ahead to future internships, I challenge you to think about how you will make your mark and, in doing so, make our organizations more accountable, innovative, and inclusive.

Laura Welch
Braven Volunteer Laura Welch, second from left, serves as a judge at our Fall RU-N Capstone Celebration.