In many areas of the world—especially the United States—job title and status are an incredibly important factor to the way society perceives you. It's not uncommon for your job title to hold more influence and status than your actual job description. As an intern myself, I can vouch for that. I have had first-hand experience in having my hand held and being treated as if I'm significantly less competent by people who have been out of college for a mere 3 years.
But here's the thing: success is all about perspective, goals, and influence. Making an impact has very little to do with title and a lot to do with influence. I can choose to be offended by the way people treat me because of my intern status, or I can shift my perspective, set goals for myself, and grow my influence.
All you need to do is ask yourself how you can make an impact in your company as an intern. What is your goal at the end of your internship? It could be as simple as getting a full-time position or finding out if you're in the field you truly want to be in. As long as you have a goal in mind, you can set sail and proceed in the right direction.
There is no one-size-fits-all method to get there, of course, but here are 3 ways you can make an impact at your internship and begin growing your influence and professional career.
1. Visualize the results you want
Think of it this way—if you're going shopping and walk into a store with no list, you might spend an entire day searching for just a few things. If you walk into the store with a list, it might take half the time to get the same task done.
The same concept can applied to an internship. Once you have a list of things you want to accomplish, you can work at a more efficient pace. Sit down with a supervisor, manager, or even a coworker who has more experience and go over your responsibilities and how they relate to the goals of the company.
At my internship, I am responsible with managing two blogs for our company, so I block out time in my calendar to meet with two different people in my marketing team in order to go over my progress, current goals, future goals, and responsibilities. I do this twice a week and it helps me align what I'm trying to accomplish for myself with what the company wants to do.
2. Show you're hungry and ready to learn
At my internship, I'm always brainstorming ideas—not because I have an agenda, but because I'm genuinely involved and I enjoy marketing. I try to make the best of my 8 hours. In order to begin making an impact, it's important to take a similar approach. Even so, you also have to do your best to be a team player and help those around you. When a miscellaneous assignment comes my way, even if I have a million things on my plate, I do my best to find some time to tackle it.
Being a team player is important, and showing you can help serve the needs of others and the company are characteristics of an effective leader—which also ties into growing your influence.
Don't be insulted when you get bombarded with menial tasks. I used to feel the same way. Instead, think of it as an opportunity to showcase how responsible you are. It's an opportunity for you to show your team you can be trusted. With trust comes more responsibility. It's okay to have a little voice in the back of your head saying "you're better than this" because that's entirely true, but the people around you don't know that yet, so show them!
3. Know the essence of your character
Having strong work ethic is important. You need to attend meetings, complete projects, meet deadlines, and contribute to the company—but one thing that truly stands the test of time is the content of your character. Are you honest? Are you trustworthy? Do you have empathy for your fellow man? These characteristics are important building blocks to authentically building your influence.
Most people these days are tired of the stereotypical bad guy CEO. Things are changing and the corporate world isn't as cutthroat as it used to be. People prefer working with someone who is a good person and doesn't just look out for themselves.
There is an important caveat that you should take away from all of this—professional change isn't something that will happen overnight. It will take time. At first, it may not feel natural, but over time it will become habitual. Focus on growing yourself professionally and becoming a better person.
Remember, it's about more than just the workplace. You have to focus on yourself outside of work as well. Take the time to become a better version of you. Titles are reactive. Influence is proactive.
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