4 Things You Can Learn From Your Interns
Interns are always asked what they have learned during their internship. But we seldom ask what they actually taught their managers.
Looking back at my first year at L’Oréal, my interns have provided me with the opportunity to develop management skills. Yet, more than anything they have helped me to realize the attitude and values I do not want to lose.
Looking back on my early career, many of the skills that helped me grow in my career didn’t come from what I learned in lectures. I was lucky to have some of the most talented and generous individuals around me who allowed me to learn, believed in my potential, and gave me hands-on experience that’s helped me succeed. Today I have been lucky to have some of the most enthusiastic, intelligent and curious interns to manage. So, I hope I can provide them with an experience that would help them succeed and get where they want to be in the years to come.
They ask “why”
Because they are often new, they don’t always know what’s been done before. When they ask why you’re doing something in a certain way, you have to explain yourself, which reveals assumptions and makes you to rethink things. Julien and Taylor have always kept me on my toes making sure that the things I do make sense not only to us but others around. That’s especially true to those brining fresh perspective and trying to figure out not only what they are good but where they would like to steer their development going forward.
Those who ask ‘why’ show a curiosity that translates into leadership abilities, which my interns have showned over the months.
By encouraging them to offer suggestions and give their ideas serious consideration it’s an opportunity to enable them to be the brave ones who reach for the bananas! And in the end of the day, by being aligned on ‘why’ we can together define ways to bring the vision to life.
They build a community
Looking at my interns and the amazing relationships they have built with other interns in various organization parts remind me that it is more than just networking and intern-superior relationship management. Networking can be an awkward word. It may imply connecting with people in an impersonal way in order to get something out of the connection. On the surface,that’s ok, but there’s more to networking than finding people who will help to advance your career. At L’Oréal interns build a community and foster culture by truly supporting each other.
Through these connections they hone their communication, leadership, and organizational skills while helping their peers to progress.
Particularly my current Intern, Pauline, has reminded me of the importance of sense of community — “feeling part of something” in a friendly atmosphere. Throughout it all, all the interns share their experiences and help each other to succeed. Surprisingly, there is not even a shred of competition among them; instead it is simply a collaborative discussion. That is something that I draw inspiration from every day.
Nurture test & learn attitude
You do not have to be in a startup to be surrounded by people who have infectious energy to roll up their sleeves and jump in headfirst. Working with 20+ olds mean that they are very entrepreneurial by nature. They’re out-of-the-box thinkers constantly looking for things to test and learn. The enthusiasm that all of my interns have brought to our team is contageous and it makes me feel that anything is possible.
That and the fact that at L’Oréal you learn by doing, hiring somebody with little or no experience in a particular area can be a bit daunting in the begining but eventually you realize it’s the mindset they bring along that actually matters to progress quickly with your support. If you are ready to roll up your sleeves and get the stuff moving together there is no reason not to hire somebody with no experience. It might be surprising for some when thinking of a size of L’Oréal but the company has always emphasized people over processes. Working in such an environment hand in hand with young talent makes you keep looking for better ways to do things every day. If you find that better way — great! If not, go for look for it until you do. Things are constantly changing, and it’s a unique opportunity to shape such organization. My previous and current interns, Julien, Ana & Pauline, share the same mentality — “done is better than perfect.”
You have to keep moving and testing to actually see whether the things that you have planned do work and are worth spending time on to perfect. One cannot anticipate all the possible outcomes. There will always be something no one thought of, and that very thing is precisely what will most likely go wrong. Uncertainty will always be there. Move on to execution. It’s okay to make mistakes along the way.
There is life outside of work
It is not about checking-in to the office at 8 am and leaving at 5 pm, every day, without fail. No ifs, ands, or buts. It is just about how you integrate work into your life.
My interns have taught me to be flexibile with their schedule as well as my own. If they need to organize their paper work or university stuff in mornings before checking-in to the office — that’s cool. If they need to leave early every Friday because they want to fly to visit their family this weekend — go for it. You can make up the work later that night or the next day, right? Right.
I appreciate that bond I get to create with my interns through trusting them to get their work done, regardless of how many hours they log in at the office or where they’re getting their work done. That attitude and values my interns have about work-life integration and not balance is something I greatly appreciate.