4 Intern Traits You Should Never Give Up On (No Matter How High Up You Get)


Remember when you were just starting out in your industry? Everything was new, and everyone you worked with had valuable insights about your job and how to do it well.

As you gained more knowledge and experience, you might have inevitably lost some of that energy and humility which you had when you were a fresh graduate. And while no one misses data entry and shadowing mentors, there are a few things that go hand-in-hand with being at the bottom that you might’ve been too quick to let go of.

For example, when you’re bright-eyed and only have more to learn in your industry, you bring a much different perspective to the table. You’re quicker to ask questions, get to know people, and tackle company problems that intrigue you.

How do you keep that fresh spirit alive? By fostering these four timeless traits throughout your career, no matter where you fall in the hierarchy.

1. Eagerness to learn

If you’re the type to ask questions, observe and take notes, or generally treat people as though you could learn something from everyone, then you’re definitely thinking like an intern or fresh graduate.

One of the most positive traits brought to teams by interns is that they often aren’t afraid to ask for help, despite the vulnerability and nervousness that can be associated with doing do. This is something that is often lost with experience and the reluctance to not show a lack of knowledge.

As you become a more senior professional, you’re likely going to run into more and more moments in which you feel as though you should know everything about a problem and how to handle it. But asking for help, no matter how vulnerable it may make you feel at the time, helps you gain new perspective and add value to the process.

After all, no one likes the person who acts as though he or she has learned all there is to know about his industry, and by being open with your skill level and actively asking how you can improve, you’ll get ahead much faster.

2. Stepping outside the assigned job duties

How many people do you know who operate only within their job descriptions? When was the last time you heard someone say that a task wasn’t her responsibility? Whether or not something fits the bullet points they read when they joined the company interns are always ready to be team players.

Improvements that aren’t urgent or mandatory, however beneficial, don’t always get tended to in the daily operations of a business. That’s where interns can greatly assist and have a learning opportunity. They bring a can-do attitude that can dust off ideas that usually go neglected.

And I get it — you can’t always stay late putting time and energy into a project outside of your main responsibilities. But if a co-worker needs a hand with his project, or you notice a public workspace could use some reorganising, it’s definitely worth considering hanging back once or twice a week to make small incremental changes.

Think a new app can streamline a process better in your office? Be open to stepping up and taking that on. It could really add value to your company.

3. Resourcefulness

Outside of the box thinking stems from the belief that nothing is impossible until it is absolutely determined to be so. As we develop in our careers, we often begin to narrow what we perceive to be our own capabilities.

This process can often be disguised as career specialisation, which is not a bad thing in itself, however, it can lead to a "stay in your lane" mentality that can restrict what one thinks they are capable of and the methods one can take to achieve a task.

Interns, on the other hand, will take the initiative to ask smart and thoughtful questions (to the right people), communicate and collaborate with other team members, and do all the necessary research to make sure the quality of his or her work is strong.

Not everyone goes the extra mile to communicate and research every step of the way, and doing so is a trait that stands out, and really makes anyone such a pleasure to work with.

4. Building relationships on other teams

Interns tend to want to learn holistically and are often eager to learn about the inner workings of their department. However, interns are also eager to learn how your business operates as a whole, and will often go out of their way to sit down, chat with and learn from people across the company.

Now think... How many people do you actually know in other departments of your company?

It can feel awkward trying to branch out to other teams, but doing so shows a valuable interest in the company community — in addition to your daily responsibilities. It says: I’m not just here because you’re paying me to be.

This can be really valuable no matter what stage you’re at in your career. It can help you get perspective on how your role fits into the broader organisation, meet new people or strengthen relationships, and show that you care about the success of the business as a whole, not just about doing your job.

Are internships going to be the most exciting part of your career? Hopefully not. Hopefully, it will just be the beginning of a long a fruitful career. However, there’s great virtue in that phase of life.

Being in a learning position on a team forces you to be open-minded and receptive, in a way that age and experience don't always allow you to be. So no matter how far you advance, remember to keep your intern attitude front and centre — it can only get you further, faster.

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