It's an opportunity to figure out where you belong.
The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for, “What should every college intern know about succeeding in business?” is written by Kristen Hamilton, co-founder and CEO of Koru.
While reflecting on my summer and early career jobs, whether waitressing at the restaurant in my small hometown or as a marketing intern in Germany, I realize how I could have better used those experiences to fuel my future.
Here are three things that I wish I’d paid more attention to:
Finding the right fit
The company you’re interning with is not a training program. It’s a job and an extended interview. They’ll be trying to figure out if you’re the right fit: Are you going to perform well at the company? Many of the more innovative employers are moving away from old signals like where you went to college and what your GPA was and are now looking for the things they know set their rock stars apart from everyone else. Are you gritty? Do you stick with it when things get tough? Are you curious? Are you a quick learner?
You should also be figuring out if the company is the right fit for you. Do you feel that you belong? Can you be your best, authentic self every day? If you can, you’re more likely to succeed and stay. But finding the right fit isn’t as easy as it sounds. You may excel at one company but struggle at another.
For example, I did well in flexible work environments and could persevere through change, but when faced with rigid structure, I struggled. An internship is your chance to figure out if the company is a good match for the type of environment in which you thrive. If it is, you’ll know it, because you’ll love working there and you’ll be at your best.
Failing fast and cheap
Failing fast and cheap is not just the most expedient way for a person to learn—it’s also the definition of how companies avoid the innovator’s dilemma. At Koru, we encourage our team to push hard and fast on all fronts, and we celebrate our failures by taking public failure bows (which are exactly what they sound like) in our weekly meetings. We do this because we know that fear of failure is crippling to both creativity and innovation. But when you acknowledge your flops, you’re more likely to learn from them and achieve success next time.
Knowing that feedback is a gift
This is probably the easiest to understand and yet the hardest to accept. Everyone needs feedback. As an intern, you should welcome feedback like it’s the best gift you’ll ever receive (because it probably is). Think about the investment someone is making in you when they take the time to think about your growth and offer feedback to help you on your way. Even as a CEO, I make it a practice to ask for feedback regularly, not just from my direct reports, but from everyone in the company, as well as my board, advisors, and our customers. Inviting feedback is not just about how you succeed as an individual—it’s about how to succeed in business.