It seems like every few weeks someone asks me to meet with a college or law school student to discuss career paths. While I enjoy these mentoring opportunities, the conversations inevitably rekindle some of the anxiety I experienced at that stage in my life. I think most of us, when we first embark on our career journey, imagine it as a progression along a straight line. It’s only years later that we realize that things have evolved far differently. For me, whenever I look back on my career, David Byrne is singing in the background: “And you may ask yourself – Well…How did I get here?.”
The truth is that most of us wander as we travel through our careers. It’s normal and it’s healthy just as long it is mindful and not aimless wandering. (Please pay particular attention to that last sentence, Dillon children.) That’s why whenever I meet with students I encourage them to take advantage of internships. And, I’m fortunate because I work for a company that mirrors my enthusiasm by funding and supporting hundreds of internships globally each year.
Internships are the best way for a student to get hands on experience as a supplement to the theory learned in school. It’s also the chance to learn about the intangibles – the pace of the company, the culture, commonly used business acronyms (gasp), organizational structure and design, and corporate communications. And, you get a paycheck. (Dillon children, please also pay attention to that last sentence.)
But the benefits go both ways. Some are obvious. For example, internships are a great way for us to identify talent for our organization. Even if the internship is for just a few months, we can assess whether someone will be a good fit for a future opportunity. Spending time with our interns (and we have some great ones this summer), also helps us understand how our organization needs to evolve to support our next generation of employees. How do they communicate? What tools do they use most frequently? Do they like to work collaboratively or autonomously? In an open space environment or an office? Do they value flexibility over regular working hours? The answers to these questions help us ensure that we are designing a scalable organization for the future.
And, sometimes, interns teach you other interesting things as well. For example, the above was diagrammed by one of our current interns on a white board in our office.
I’m only hoping she will next diagram Game of Thrones.
I still can’t understand that show.