The Biggest Internship Mistake You Might Be Making

This article was originally published on LinkedIn. 

Following my freshman year of college, I took an internship with a mid-sized utilities company in California. Most of my time was spent analyzing the budget of a small department and updating the forecast for the upcoming year. It was my first real internship, and although I was largely unprepared, l wanted to make the most of it.

Most days I ate lunch at my desk, but a few weeks into the internship I was invited to go out to eat with the new team. I declined the offer, insisting I would love to go but had too much work to complete. Sure, I was busy trying to finish an assignment, but nothing so urgent I couldn’t step away for an hour. In reality, much of my rationale for declining the lunch invitation was to showcase my work ethic and commitment to the job. I thought that by saying no I might impress my colleagues. While this sounds ridiculous in hindsight, for some reason it made sense at the time.

As an intern I was so focused on getting things done and trying to look busy that I missed a big opportunity to build rapport, strengthen relationships, and more fully integrate with the team.

I’m probably being a little hard on myself by shining a bright light on a small misstep, but I believe that many interns can subconsciously fall into this trap. We often get so caught up in the “big things”, such as completing assignments and responding to emails, that we forget the “little things”, such as having lunch with a coworker or reaching out to a colleague we’d like to meet.

But in reality, the little things are the big things, and when we focus on projects at the expense of people, we risk creating a rift between us and our coworkers.

I tried to learn from this lesson during my LinkedIn internship last summer. LinkedIn has an awesome internship program and we were fortunate to hear from several key executives, including our CEO, Jeff Weiner, and Chairman, Reid Hoffman. Additionally, there were many small group lunches with leaders throughout the company where we could ask questions and learn from their experiences. Several interns turned down these opportunities, claiming they were “too busy” to join, but those who managed their time and attended the events had a rich and inspiring summer.

We all know that networking is critical when seeking a great internship, but we often forget how important it is to keep strengthening our networks after we’ve started.

As you go throughout your internship, consider taking a step back and asking yourself whether you’re striking the right balance between projects and people. Doing good work is critical, but so is developing strong relationships with your colleagues.

Like what you read? Click here to subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

Why I Wrote Not Your Parents’ Workplace, a Career Strategy Book

This article was originally published on LinkedIn. 

Last summer I completed an amazing internship at LinkedIn, and I’m excited to join the company after I graduate later this month.

Over the last year I’ve served as a LinkedIn Ambassador at my university. My primary goal in this position has been to help BYU students learn how to build a killer LinkedIn profile, develop networking skills, and leverage LinkedIn to find a great job. I’ve been a guest-lecturer in several courses and I’ve spent countless hours helping students on a one-on-one basis.

While working with these students, I’ve constantly thought back to when I was an undergrad. I remember trying to study hard and get good grades, but when it came time to find a career I was relatively clueless. In fact, my first internship interview was a total failure. I was asked about a time I showed initiative and responded with a story about how I “courageously” asked out a girl I thought was out of my league. When I finished the story they looked at me like I was a total weirdo. Needless to say, I didn’t get the internship.

I was unprepared for interviews and knew very little about how to build professional relationships or find a job, but thankfully I had many peers and mentors who helped guide me along the way. I eventually found a great internship which led to a full-time offer. I thought my future was set, but I was wrong.

During the first thirty years of my dad’s career, he worked at just two companies. In contrast, within a year of graduation I had already worked at three, enduring the largest bankruptcy in history at one company and getting laid off by another. Like many of you, I planned on one thing, but events and circumstances outside of my control forced me to pivot.

I knew the business world would be different from my father’s, but I didn’t realize how quickly things would change for my generation. The Millennial generation—individuals born between the early 1980s and early 2000s—are walking into a very different business environment than the one into which our parents worked. We can’t rely on the stability of a linear career path within one company.

A few months into my role as a LinkedIn Ambassador, I felt inspired to start writing down the experiences I’ve had and the lessons learned. Writing a book started as an audacious goal, but over time it turned into a reality.

My goal in writing this book is to share an intimate account of the highs and lows I’ve experienced in my young career. But more importantly, I share lessons for those trying to make the most of their career. These lessons include:

  • How to build professional relationships
  • How to develop a competitive advantage
  • How to adapt in an ever-changing workplace

To be successful in this new world, we must take a proactive approach to managing our careers. I believe that the stories and lessons shared in my book will help readers learn how to launch a meaningful career and take charge of their future.

Like what you read? Click here to subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

Five Ways the LinkedIn Internship Exceeded My Expectations

This article was originally published on LinkedIn. 

I recently hit the halfway point of my summer internship with LinkedIn and I’ve been reflecting on how the experience compared to my expectations.

The difficult part about making an internship decision is that regardless of the steps taken to learn about a company, it’s really difficult to gauge what a company is like until you actually get there. This is my first time working at a tech company, and although I had many LinkedIn employees telling me it was an awesome place to work, my experience at past companies has left me somewhat skeptical.

In short, I hoped for the best, but wondered how different it would be from prior companies. Thankfully, it’s been an awesome experience. Here are five ways interning at LinkedIn has surpassed my expectations.

Exposure to Executives

Despite having over 5,000 employees, LinkedIn still feels relatively small. Since joining I’ve been able to meet both our CEO (Jeff Weiner) and co-founder/chairman (Reid Hoffman). I’ve heard them speak on multiple occasions, and they are very approachable. Our head of Talent (HR), Pat Wadors, has made it a priority to get to know the interns and even took a selfie with us at our most recent All Hands meeting.

Needless to say, the executives don’t take themselves too seriously.

The Food

It’s amazing. I really don’t know what to say other than that. Having a central café brings people together and I get to meet new people and interact with colleagues outside of my workspace.

Passion for the Company

While on the subject of food, I’ve had lunch with a number of people throughout the company. When asked how they like working at LinkedIn, they inevitably respond enthusiastically saying that they love it here. The passion my co-workers have for LinkedIn makes it a really fun place to work. They seem genuinely happy and that happiness has become infectious.

Relationships

One of LinkedIn’s values is Relationships Matter, and I quickly learned that this isn’t some trite expression. The importance of relationships is visible in how my manager interacts with me, and how employees work with one another.

The campus recruiting team has put together a lot of cool activities to facilitate networking among the interns and we’ve quickly bonded as a group. Last week I was on my way out when I started chatting with a few of the other interns. We ended up talking for almost two hours.

While I’ve only been here a short time, I’ve built real relationships with great individuals.

Impact

LinkedIn is a fast growing company with a relatively flat org structure. Because of that, intern projects make an immediate impact. Last week I presented to nine HR leaders and shared a tool that I’ve been developing. I was told by the head of the group that my project is critical for the organization. There’s still a lot to be done over the next six weeks, but knowing that what I do has real value keeps me motivated to deliver quality work.

Most companies say they provide interns with big, meaty projects, and they probably do. I can only speak for LinkedIn and the impact I’m having at the company. I love it.

Like what you read? Click here to subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

10 Critical Lessons I Learned During My Internship

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

This summer I have the good fortune of interning with Linkedin. As I’ve been working on summer projects, I can’t help thinking back to 2007 when I was an investment banking intern with Lehman Brothers in New York. I was fortunate to land a full-time offer after my internship, and I joined the firm just weeks before they made history by becoming the largest company to declare bankruptcy (but that’s another story).

Towards the end of the internship I made a list of lessons I learned during my 10 weeks at the company. While some lessons speak to the unique culture of investment banking, and others sound somewhat silly, I think there are valuable tips that any intern can follow to have a great summer.

  1. Always know the details of your internship project. As an intern, almost every time you cross paths with someone, the first topic of conversation is the project you are working on. If you can clearly articulate what you are working on and show excitement in the process, everyone will assume you are intelligent and hard working.
  2. When walking down the hallways, walk very fast and have a look on your face of deep concentration. Doing this will make it appear that you are working very hard on something important.
  3. After someone gives you an assignment, restate in your own words what it is you understand you should do. If you just smile and nod, they will assume you know exactly what to do, even if they didn’t explain it very well. Avoid going back to your desk and wasting a lot of time trying to figure it out what they said or having to ask them re-explain it.
  4. Investment Bankers judge you by how late you stay at night. However, don’t go around bragging how late you were at work. Chances are they were working just as late one of the previous nights. If they ask, let them know how late you stayed, but downplay it. You want others to know that staying at work until 3am is not a big deal.
  5. PAY ATTENTION TO DETAIL. Everyone who is senior to you is really smart and can pick up on most errors with a glance. If you need to take an extra 10 minutes to look over the slide/spreadsheet, definitely do it. You can’t afford to be making mistakes on that kind of stuff.
  6. When sending emails, always say please and thank you, even if it is something small. Most people are very busy and are running on little sleep. Saying please and thank you is very easy and everyone appreciates the gesture. Being polite and showing people kindness goes a long way.
  7. Being really smart and good with numbers is not everything it takes to succeed. I thought that was the case when I first started. Being resourceful is an attribute that will take you very far. Don’t underestimate the importance of communication.
  8. When putting slides together, always be able to reference how you got to the output (excel calculations, research reports, etc). The senior banker will always ask for this data, and if you don’t have it readily available, she will get even more frustrated / stressed. This is not good because bankers are usually always frustrated / stressed to start off – no need to make them take it out on you.
  9. Go to the gym. If you take an hour and a half going to the gym, that means that you can stay later while still doing the same amount of work. This may sound dumb as a full-time analyst, but as an intern, you want to put in some good face time.
  10. When you first meet a new person in your group, and you don’t know what their title is, always guess a level above what you think they are. If you are pretty sure that they’re an analyst, ask the question, “So you are an associate, right?” No harm can come from guessing a higher rank. It might even make their day.

Intern life can be difficult and you only have a short time to make a lasting impression. But an internship is a great opportunity to gain hands-on experience, develop deep relationships and set yourself up for a rewarding career. Good luck!

Like what you read? Click here to subscribe to my monthly newsletter.