Being an Intern Change Agent

ideas

One of the exciting things about an internship is the possibility of one of your ideas being implemented by the organization you’re working for. This is a great accomplishment for an intern – You leave your mark on the organization and have an outstanding achievement to highlight on your resume. Employers gain, too. For them, one of the benefits of having an intern is the potential infusion of new ideas. It can be a win-win situation.

However, nobody likes a hotshot intern, someone who comes in and immediately starts cramming all of their ideas down people’s throats. As an intern, it’s important to introduce new ideas in a respectful, even delicate manner. Here are my thoughts on how to approach this process.

Look, Listen, and Learn

When you are a new intern, take the time to observe your workplace environment. Are things being done in creative or innovative ways? When you hear conversations between employees, do people seem open to different perspectives? Make attending staff meetings a part of your internship. Pay attention to the discussions and take note of things like direction of, contributions to, and tone of the conversation. Does this feel like a place that welcomes new ideas?

Ask Questions

If you observe something that think could be done in a different way, start by just asking questions. Sometimes, there are reasons why things are being done the way they are. And unless you ask, you won’t know. It’s also possible that your idea isn’t that new – maybe they already tried making that change and it didn’t work. These kinds of points are great for the meetings you have with your supervisor. You’ll learn more about the organization, and there will now be more context to your ideas.

Use Relationships

The best way to integrate your ideas into an organization is through trusting work relationships. The best place to start building a good working relationship is with your supervisor. He or she can provide you with valuable insight about the organization. You know that he/she is supportive of your learning during the internship experience. Your meetings with him/her should be your opportunity to discuss your observations and ideas.

In addition to these points, make sure that you are being a good intern. Do the best work you can. Have a positive attitude. Be self-motivated. If you are doing a great job with the work you were brought on to do, then people will be more receptive to your ideas. And finally, I would suggest approaching discussions of new ideas from a brainstorming perspective. Take time to “think out loud” with your supervisor or open-minded co-workers.

Questions…

Did you successfully suggest a change or a new idea at and internship?
How did you approach the situation?

Photo by Sean MacEntee

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