Final Thoughts to Interns

Random Observation/Comment #437: No matter the result of your difficult choice, look back and be at peace with your decision.

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I write a lot of early career advice in general, but if I were to summarize what I think an intern should focus on right now, this would be it:

  1. Learn to summarize your internship.  If I haven’t drilled this into you on our one-on-ones already, it’s important to be able to represent the context of your internship work in a short amount of time. Things interviewers listen for:
    1. Business background. Ex. Fixed Income trading application with a portfolio of over 2 billion
    2. Your specific role. Ex. Business analyst writing functional requirements and assisting with QA. Dabbled in UI design
    3. Structure of internship. Ex. 2 projects in a 10-week program working with a main hiring manager team and a separate 4-person team following SDLC prototype
    4. Personal lessons learned. Ex. Worked well with a regional team and took opportunities to meet with senior management to learn more about the business 
  2. Maintain your network. This applies to those you’ve met here, those you’ve had coffee with, and your peers. Stay in touch with them *meaningfully* and make sure you write follow-up emails in all cases. 
  3. Evaluate your skillset. If you’re technical, stay up to date with the languages you’ll need to learn and build a portfolio. If you’re business focused, learn more about project management techniques and take the CFA. 
  4. Balance your life. I’m a firm believer in having a hobby that will calm you down and anchor your life. It could be playing table tennis, photography, reviewing restaurants, or reading trashy romance novels (not that I do that). No matter what it is, it should make you happy and relieve stress. 
  5. Mentor. At every stage, you will learn something you can share. When you’ve been through the experience, please pay it forward/backward for all those who are in your shoes right now. Give them the advice I have given you or your own lessons learned because you’ll find it rewarding knowing the cycle continues through these good deeds.

At the end of the day, your career path and future is your own responsibility. Find out what you’d like to do and do it. Paint your blue sky and then work your way towards it. Don’t worry what your influences say would be the “smart” decision – if you don’t take the risk now, then you never will.

If you want to cheat a bit, you could always teeter both sides and have a well-paying 9-5 job where you do mediocre and then an awesome side project that keeps you motivated. Who knows? Maybe your side project can replace your safety blanket.

~See Lemons Manage Interns