I met with a young college student recently to talk about how best to utilize the summer – specifically, internships. 2018 marks 13 years since I started the co-op program at Georgia Tech. Since then, I have been fortunate to pivot my career to what I do (and love) now including working with young interns.
My tips:
  • Early years (college, pre-college, early 20s, etc.) should be geared towards learning. Most students do not have much real-world working experience. Yet, our lives beyond college means we must work to constantly put food on the table. Prioritizing learning early on enables students to identify what one enjoys early on, as well as what one does not enjoy.
  • Be courageous – it’s okay to fail. It’s advantageous to build a foundation of putting one’s self out there (e.g. reaching out to idols, learning to code, etc.). Being courageous even “a little bit” can create a habit for the future.
  • Seek answers where you have the most questions. In the case of the student, she was considering two different paths – one in healthcare, one in development. It can be difficult to choose a path for the summer when both offer unlimited opportunities/ benefits. I advised her to opt for the path she has the greatest questions about. Again, it’s okay to fail and pivot, especially early on in life where there is less risk.
  • Start developing your WHY and your PURPOSE. I’m a fan of Simon Sinek’s message to understand what drives people. This will be nebulous for most young folks, but it’s a great place to start building self-awareness.

Everything can seem new and confusing early on for this young student. It’s all a process. Take a deep breath. Now is the time to cultivate never-ending curiosity.

I recently had a couple interns work for me at SalesWise. They were great resources to help in marketing, sales, prospecting, support, etc.
However, the interns were straight out of high school (or still in). They did not have much experience in any particular area. It was a challenge, at first, to get them ramped up on what to do. Luckily, I leaned on my experience as a co-op back at Georgia Tech to help me lead my interns.
My biggest advice to the interns, and indeed, the same understanding I wanted them to be grounded on: “Absorb as much as you can, even if the work seems ‘simple’.”
My biggest advice to them after their time? “Re-read and re-absorb everything you did.”
One of my regrets from my internship at UPS Supply Chain Solutions back in the day was not absorbing as much as I could about logistics, transportation, the contacts I interacted with, their interests, etc. As I look back, there were hundreds of connections I wish I kept in touch with. (LinkedIn makes it much easier to do this today.)
I had my interns research our various customer profiles — their functions (i.e. sales operations, sales enablement, marketing ops, other), the challenges of each persona, how our solution could benefit these individuals, etc. By the end of their time, they could rattle off what was important to each person and could write messages or communicate with each person in a meaningful way.
I feel my co-op experience gave me great insight into being a professional and working with others, especially communication. However, I missed out on some of the “tribal knowledge” because I didn’t think much about it.
For my interns, I felt it was important (as each wanted to enter some role in business) to understand the people on the other side of the table — customers, internal stakeholders, etc. I wanted them to understand the WHY of each task. These interns were very bright, hardworking, and self-starters.
They will run up against many other students who are just as bright, hardworking, and self-starting. What will set them apart is their ability to immediately contribute and have accelerated growth. It’s this tribal knowledge, these concepts around understanding audiences, etc. that will make these interns highly valuable as they seek their next opportunities.
What are the pieces of advice you give to interns? How have you helped nurture interns? If you were an intern, what was some of the best advice or best take-aways from your experience?