As much as we can learn from the people ahead of us in our careers, there’s just as much we can learn from the people we lead! Here are 4 things I learned from my intern:
1.) We all start somewhere. My intern reminded me that I was once young and dumb…but not at all aware of what I was lacking. I had to flex my patience muscle more than I was used to because development takes investment and energy. My intern was a great reminder to me that there is a difference between a leader and a manager. I could have just focused on the work that needed to be done with her and checked the boxes until her last day, but a leader plants seeds that will hopefully help to grow people professionally. In working with my intern, I was so grateful for the people who invested in me…even when I was young and …errr… dumb!
2.) Confidence vs. cockiness. It’s a fine line and as women, we have to navigate it so much more carefully. You know how men can walk into a room an instantly show an air of confidence? They can tell you exactly what they do, who they do it for and with, and they make you feel like you need them without even trying. Well this is an art that my intern thought she mastered. Um…she did not! And every time she tried to sound confident, she ended up sounding incredibly cocky. After thinking about this for a bit, I realized that this isn’t her fault. In a lot of ways, we think we are supposed to imitate men to gain respect in our careers, but in some instances, I think being different as a woman has its value. We don’t want to be the same, we want to be equal! So instead of trying to sssume the stance of man to gain credibility, why not show confidence in our differences so that it comes across as authentic and genuine….something that the world of work is desperate for?
3.) The future can be scary. Remember back when everything was unknown? People asked you what you wanted to do or be and you recited the script that you’ve been reciting since you were 21 because you figured it was better than saying “I don’t really know yet”. My intern reminded me of how scary it is to not know. But the thing I also remembered is how that fear of not knowing eventually shifts into an excitement of all the possibilities. But you can’t see that as an intern. As an intern, you think you have to be perfect, impress everyone and that the rest of your life depends on it. It doesn’t! I promise!
4.) You are never too good for small tasks! I kid you not, my intern told me all the things she did NOT want to do when I interviewed her. If you could have seen the look on my face wondering if this was actually a joke! Wait, you want to get experience on my team but you don’t want to pivot excel spreadsheets? Wait, I’m so confused! Because I was so fascinated by this new aged attitude, I egged her on. “Tell me more” I said. And then when I could take no more grave digging, my mentor mind turned on and I stopped her to give her some advise. NEVER tell someone you want to work for what you don’t want to do. Sure, highlight the things that you want to do but if gaining experience means I’m taking minutes at a meeting, I’d just be grateful that I get to sit in on the meeting. One of the best quotes I’ve heard about leadership is “A leader is someone who will flush the toilet when everyone else just moves to a different stall”. A leader does the things that need to be done. As you grow in your career, the tasks change, but be humble ladies! Whether you are the CEO or the junior analyst, there is no job that is to menial!