I was very curious about the graduate student internship experience. After a few years of work experience as a full timer, I figured it might be a bit strange to go back with the intern badge. I also wondered what elements of my approach to work would be different after a year in business school.
First up, wearing the intern badge wasn’t strange at all. It helped that we had ~25 other MBA interns as part of our intern class at LinkedIn. In fact, it regularly felt like a place of privilege – we were treated incredibly well and I regularly felt very fortunate to be given the opportunity to do what I was doing.
My approach to work did feel different. 3 things that stood out –
1. Adapted my productivity system from school for work purposes. I’ve written about a simple system that I used through my first year – in a nutshell, it involves color coding my calendar based on the 4 priorities at school (career, academics, extra-curricular, social) and doing a weekly review to check how I was doing. I ported the system to my internship. The new priorities were – core project, other projects, people, intern events. And, I found it to be just as useful in facilitating an intentional and reflective approach to work.
I don’t think I experienced the full power of the system because my “core projects” were fairly well scoped out. I think the system’s benefits really show up when there’s a multitude of priorities pulling you in different directions. Looking forward to continue to refine this system for work purposes when I’m back at work after school.
2. Proactively met people. One of the beautiful parts of graduate school is setting up time for a quick coffee/walk when you want to get to know someone. As I generally avoid the big bar/party settings, I did plenty of these “coffee” catch ups through my first year. This was a very helpful habit going into the internship as I got to both know and learn from people I didn’t directly work with. It is something I should continue to do when I get back to work next year.
3. Working off a more solid foundation. Many a time, I felt grateful for my core courses and the fact that I could call on my professors if I needed help (and I did). The best way to describe the benefits of a good graduate business education is that it gives you a set of basic tools that helps you be more effective. I liken education to wearing a different pair of glasses. It fundamentally changes the way you see the world without you realizing it.
I did also walk away with a sense of urgency in terms of things I needed to learn.
That brings me to next steps. I took away 3 next steps from my internship experience –
1. Take the time to understand what you will need to be successful at your chosen craft in 3-5 years. This is part of an ongoing and iterative process in my case. I’ve decided to go back to LinkedIn and plan on working my way towards building and managing web/mobile products in the next 3-5 years. And, I am currently focused on understanding what skills I need to develop in the coming year to give myself a good start.
2. Take courses that will be relevant. While I’m grateful for the core courses, I’m also really excited about taking courses that are relevant. For instance, I’m taking 2 courses from our cutting edge ‘Big Data & Analytics’ curriculum and intend to continue exploring courses that will be relevant to my journey.
3. Enjoy student life. My time away from school made me appreciate the joys of student life. As this is likely my last ever year of student life, I intend to make the most of it. Among other things, that means taking more time to have many more wonderful conversations with friends and plenty of afternoon naps.