Your parents may have told you that you are a gift of the gods but the truth is, when it comes to your early days in the work world… nobody cares. And if you think you’re going to cruise through any aspect of your career based on your charm or some ill-guided sense of entitlement, you are dead wrong.
It doesn’t matter just that you show up—they don’t really need you—there are many more intern candidates out there just like you. You have to be motivated to come in, be humble and helpful and see if you can learn something while making yourself indispensable.
At the Association of Executive Search Consultants, where I was head of marketing for four years, we always had a lot of interns. And we screened them carefully—they were all smart, came from top universities and had to go through a laborious application and interview process. But even with all that, the quality and attitudes of the interns really varied.
One year we had a recent graduate from Cornell who was thinking about law school. He came in through an important client so we couldn’t put him through the usual onerous application process, for goodwill reasons. Despite our reservations and cynicism, he turned out to be the best intern we ever had.
What made him so good? First, he had an amazing attitude. He was so nice, and so willing and proactive. His work product was outstanding, and he was willing to work however many hours it took for him to produce something that was truly of value. I’m sure his background helped—he was raised by a single mother who was very successful professionally–and he had fended for himself from an early age. We hired him over the years to work on projects for us while he was in law school. And today he has a successful career as an attorney.
I tell you this story because I believe it illustrates the attitude and willingness required to be a really good intern. It is a one-sided relationship until you make it otherwise. The good thing is that it’s within your power to do so.
Brats need not apply – you’ll be wasting our time, and yours.
About the Author: Allison Cheston is a New York City-based career advisor that works with mid-career executives, young adults in high school and college, and recent graduates to help them understand how their strengths and interests fit in the world of work. Allison is author of the upcoming In The Driver’s Seat: Work-Life Navigational Skills for Young Adults, the first book to combine the perspectives of both a ‘Boomer’ and hundreds of Gen Y college grads aged 23 to 30.
An entrepreneur with cross-cultural expertise, Allison holds a BA from the University of Michigan and both an MA in International Education and a Certificate in Adult Career Planning from New York University.