The Internship Paracetamol – A Pill For Your Internship Woes
If you are a b-school chap, and at this time of the year you aren’t feeling hungry or can’t sleep properly, chances are either you are in love or doing a summer internship. “Regrettably“, this article will be assuming the latter one as the reason and will try to suggest some pointers.
Probably you have just started your internship and you might already be under a lot of pressure. And if most of that comes from seeing your friends and classmates posting about where they are interning in social media or chats telling how awesome their workplace is, well you are not alone. Definitely not alone. Simply put, that’s how it starts. And like most of the social media posts, the best you can do is, ignore and focus on the work at hand.
I interned in a reputed FMCG firm’s sales and marketing division. So, in spite of my best efforts to try and keep the aspects of the article quite generally applicable, some of it might make more sense to S&M in particular.
First things first, don’t try to solve your life’s quest through your 2 months of the summer internship. Most of us, (myself included), we try to figure out if the domain or the sector is something we actually want, if the company is actually a good place to start a career, what are the chances of a PPO (Pre-Placement Offer), if not PPO then what else can be a possible option during finals etc. Going on that track is like trying to figure out an answer to
the “Why MBA question?” in retrospect. You will end up with a different answer every time, none of which is true :D. It is okay to have that uncertainty. What one can focus and actually nail during the 2 months of the internship is learning. It shall help in a variety of ways. One simple example is, your approach to the case contests and solutions for projects in the second year might be radically different and greatly influenced by the internship lessons.
Stop trying to solve the life’s career quest and start solving the problem at hand.
Most of the interns will try to leave a mark right at the start. Be it a relatively silent guy next to you in class who’s now asking umpteen number of questions during the internship or an introvert who has miraculously changed his personality within a week or people trying to be overenthusiastic about the whole deal. It all happens every year and its nothing new. However, the more you try seeking such an attention, the more will be the pressure you might invite upon yourself. Because in no time you would have invited too much expectation from your reporting person. And one can only pretend so much. Then comes the usual. So it’s better to start silently. Be nice and try to figure out how things work within the company. Don’t get bogged down if you can’t get enough face time with your guide. Mentoring isn’t the only job of an assigned guide. They would be having their own 100 headaches. So it would help if you can politely ask what is expected out of you before you throw zillion ideas about turning the whole company around. A couple of folks around might even feel a little insecure if you start being hyper and try showcasing yourself as a machine which can get work done and ask for more. So start silent, be receptive and make them a little comfortable. You will realise they have plenty of insights to share once they open up.
Be interested. But don’t come across as desperate.
It’s good to dive right into the project once you have clarified what is expected out of you with the mentor. The first 4 weeks is when you will be throwing everything you got into the project. It is the best time to do all the market visits and ironing things that are at the periphery of your project. Because it would get increasingly difficult to get so much time towards the tail end. And the more you dive into the project, the more you will realise that the scope has to be restricted to get a tangible output within 2 months.And all your recommendations and PPTs will run only on the data that you collect during this phase.
If data is everything, then this is the phase when you will gather every ounce of it.
It won’t be an exaggeration to say at the end of 4 weeks, that is midway though the summer internship, 50% of the crowd will off the track. Either because they would have only then realised by the actual scope of the project or that they have been approaching it from an entirely different angle than what was expected out of them. And if you make that mistake, then correcting it would be a little tedious. The alternative, however, is to approach your mentor and keep them on the same page. Though you might not be able to contact them every single day, you can at least try and let them know as to what you are actually up to. Like they say, there is no point in running fast if you are headed in the wrong direction.
Be concerned about the direction of the project. Progress can be compensated.
I remember one of our favourite professors of marketing quoting “Carry a diary and write everything you do in a day throughout the internship”. One cannot emphasise more the importance of it. At the start, it might sound mundane. But given the sheer pace of a summer internship, it would actually be tough recollecting a lot of things you might have actually worked on without keeping a track of it. It’s not just for one’s own reference but when you sit for a meeting with a mentor or a guide after a week long gap and have to tell them every tool/ method/ insights you gathered over the span of time, such a diary will be a life saver. In my case, I was not that comfortable with Hindi when I interned, so I used to seek the respondents permission and voice record interviews just for my own reference. Only later did I realise how handy it was. I could actually snip a part of the interview and use it in my final presentation to make it even more engaging.
Whatever you try, whether it works or not, keep track of it. It shall help when you make your final recommendation.
The final presentation and recommendations are something that will wrap everything you have done for the entire 2 months. And it is not a bad idea to start a little ahead for preparing the same. 7th week of internship would be an ideal time to start thinking about it and get going. And it helps to add at least one creative element to it. Not necessarily a very gaudy looking presentation or full of animations force fitted into every slide. Something as simple as the voice record of the interviews I spoke above can be a brownie point. Add something that will make things easier for the audience. And also take them through the course of the internship. Craft your internship as a story and tell them where you started and what you did every week from the start (this is where the diary helps). This will let them know that you have actually thrown a lot of effort into every aspect of the project, though most of it might not have been Incorporated in the final solution because of the time crunch.
Remember there might be a dozen other interns presenting to the same panel and each panellist might be busy thinking about their own deliverable for the day. The best way to make sure your presentation sticks in their mind is to showcase something different.
Get creative and put up a good show.
Summer Internship is the best time to actually try some of the management lessons one might have learnt at the B-school and get away with the mistakes if it doesn’t go well. It’s also the time you make friends across campuses and within the company. It’s definitely not the time to worry about how the internship will fit in the big story of your life.
Stop Overthinking. Start silent. Slog Early. Correct Quickly. Record Diligently. End Creatively & take it one day at a time.
Good luck Interning & Godspeed!
About the Author:
Niveth is an IIM Indore Alumnus (class of 2017). He is passionate about technology and loves writing snippets and quotes. You may reach out to the author through LinkedIn