5 Endearing Qualities of Today’s Interns in Startups
Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to work with some very diverse and smart people from different countries and varied cultural backgrounds. Many of these business associates, right from mid level executives to CXOs, have influenced me in more ways than one. I have grown as a person due to their positivity and infectious qualities — such as their passion towards work, eye for perfection, global mindset and opinionated nature to name a few. Moreover, they remain humble despite their achievements, body of work, career progressions and ivy-league education. In fact, while starting Conquerem at the age of 29, I drew a lot of inspiration from these wonderful people around me.
My first year into this venture has taught me a lot of things — one of them being that for inspiration, I don’t necessarily need to look up to senior and proven individuals alone. At Conquerem, by virtue of our internship program with 8 diverse tracks, we have been exposed to a whole lot of young bright sparks when we received 500+ applications in 2015–16. Our process of filtration and selection involves going through each of these CVs and then two rounds of shortlisting — “ice breaker” phone calls, followed by F2F meetings for the finally selected interns. Being closely associated with Conquerem’s recruitment, I have started appreciating these minds, which are probably a decade younger to me, for their unique ideas and drive to achieve what they want. So, I thought of collating my thoughts about attributes of “today’s generation” that impress me:
(1) Hunger for learning
In most of the CVs that I come across, I see that the students don’t limit themselves to their coursework and explore beyond it. They spend their spare time cautiously in avenues that provide diverse knowledge. For e.g. online courses on popular platforms such as Coursera or Udemy. Furthermore, taking creative freedom in their creative CVs to another level, it is not uncommon for youngsters to include watching diverse YouTube videos to widen their horizons as a hobby. In the past, several candidates have attended summer programs at prestigious institutions such as Kings College and LSE as this too adds to their exposure and hunger for growth.
(2) Drive to build a body of work, quickly
A lot of bright candidates that applied to Conquerem already had a body of work reflecting in their CVs at their humble age. Despite what some people think about college students only wanting to holiday and having fun, most of these individuals start planning their summer and winter vacations right from their first year of college and gladly forego dreams of an exotic trip. Two interns at Conquerem are active members of their respective Tedx organization committees, where they have gained numerous skills and priceless experience, from putting-in endless hours to make the independently organized Ted events a success. Interns have also been associated with prestigious events such as the Harvard US-India Initiative and Columbia Press Conference, to name a few.
(3) Desire to be self-sufficient
Students are sensitive about their parents’ hard earned money and have a great sense of achieving self-sufficiency on their own merit. Several interns who aspire to spoil themselves with high end gadgets, vacations or expensive online courses, want to do it with their “own money”. Recently, one of our interns saved judiciously and worked hard across multiple initiatives for months to purchase a Macbook Pro. The excitement and pride that he felt after walking out of that Apple store touched my heart!
(4) Not afraid to ask questions
Another quality that I really admire about young students is that they don’t shy away from asking questions or making a point. I feel that this is a habit one must encourage in companies that actively hire interns because sometimes asking the right questions can lead to unique ideas or even correcting the course of a company’s initiative. For e.g. Conquerem’s social media campaign on all major festivals of 50+ emerging market countries was an intern’s idea during a brainstorming session. One-way communication doesn’t work well for anyone.
(5) Refrain from politics or ego-battles
Being involved with many engagements and activities simultaneously, students keep evolving every day. Their confidence is worth encouraging since they prefer discussions and want to do well and be recognized for their work and deliverables, not for flattery or ego-massages. They appreciate it when creative differences are concluded based on merit and competence, and not through misuse of someone’s position.
Recently, I was very disappointed to read a post about one of the “poster boys” of India’s startup ecosystem and how they (ab)used and short-changed their interns. Although everyone has their own style and methods to maintain relationships with interns, I think the best way is to treat them as adults, with utmost fairness and dignity. India is blessed to have a young working force and it is fascinating to work closely with such smart individuals to tap into their unlimited potential. My advice to startups is to merely offer them a sense of direction, instead of relaying “orders” to see what wonders they will produce.