As you start your summer internships, you are going into a new and unfamiliar environment, where you would need to prove yourself worthy for a full-time gig in less than 10-12 weeks. I walked into Ecolab Inc. in Minneapolis for my summer internship that encompassed a whole lot of unknowns: the city, the industry, the role, the team and the company itself. In order to maximize my productivity and experience, I had to anchor myself to people within the company who can help me settle down quickly, and also contribute towards a success summer: people who can support me beyond the professional context. I called them my “go-to team.”
Who can they be?
Essentially, your anchors should be employees within the organization who have spent a considerable time in the company as well as the location. They can be someone who you have some similarity with, such as company division, business school, work floor or even ethnic background. My “go-to team” comprised of my manager, my team’s director, 2015 Booth alumni and a fellow Indian who had his work station right next to me.
What can they support you in?
It is important to build personal relationships with your anchors, to enable trust and support beyond your project. Some of the different areas I took support in were: feedback and run-through on final presentation, who to network with and how, fun things to do in the city, and even pursuing common interests together. The interactions could range from personal to professional contexts: from a formal meeting to getting drinks or even catching up over the weekend.
How can you sustain these relationships?
Your anchors should know that you value their feedback and trust their opinion. This makes them more invested in your development and experience. I often openly communicated this to my anchors, and it fostered a stronger bond with them. Beyond communication, it was also important for me to maintain regular interaction with them. The conversations shouldn’t always be when you need some kind of support. I used to often catch up with my anchors, and have meaningful conversations with them about their personal interests and background or their professional goals. This way, you are also building long-term relationships, but do not do this with the intent of sustaining anchors; be genuinely interested in building these relationships.
The first few days of your internship are overwhelming because you are getting to know new people, while trying to figure out the scope of your project. Hopefully, you find your anchors in these days so they could help get you over this feeling faster and can direct you towards a successful summer stint.