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What Working with Interns has Taught Me

If I had a no foam, extra hot latte for every time someone asked me if I’ve pulled a Miranda Priestly and thrown my coat at the interns, I’d open my own Starbucks. The life of an intern is often a thankless one, but the truth is most are far smarter and a lot more clued in than Anne Hathaway’s Andy ever was, and a lot of staffers can learn from them. As The Devil Wears Prada turns 10 this year, there’s no better time to share some of the lessons interns have taught me over the years …

Make it count. Smart interns realise from the off that their placement isn’t going to last forever. They make every experience count, even the bad ones. Whatever your job title, every day presents an opportunity to improve. Never stop asking questions or learning.

Details matter. Learning how to spell “Gabbana” may be a little redundant in the finance or health sector, but paying attention to the finer details can have a big impact on performance. Interns that stand out for me never neglect the minutiae that contribute to the bigger picture.

Girls compete, women empower. Our current staff writer landed her job after a short stint as an intern. One of the reasons she stood out from the start was that she didn’t try to compete with any of the existing members of the team. She found a way to support each of them with their workloads, complemented their strengths, and then brought her own.

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Kill the fear. Most of us are afraid of the unknown and the reactions of others, but an internship is all about learning from mistakes. Often, when we finally land the job we want, we’re too afraid to mess up, so we stop trying as hard as we should. Failing is part of the journey. There are always rejections on the way to landing that great promotion, but whether your experiences are good or bad, learn from the outcome and enjoy the process.

Internships aren’t for everyone. Some people thrive in an office environment. Others don’t. If you subscribe to the Joss Stone school of bare feet and prefer to leave your shoes at home, chances are a corporate environment isn’t the right fit for you. One of my smartest interns realised soon into her placement that the 9 to 5 wasn’t for her. She gracefully bowed out early to give someone else her spot and is now successfully freelancing from the comfort of her own home. If your job isn’t working for you, find one that will.

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