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 Amber Theoharis, an Emmy Award-winning sports journalist and host for the NFL Network.
Interns at the NFL Network have surpassed the days of getting coffee and running teleprompters. Today, social-media branding and digital platforms are crucial to the ever-evolving world of media consumption. Broadcasters like myself lean on the tech savvy of our interns to keep up. College graduates’ abilities to navigate Twitter (TWTR), Snapchat, and Instagram are getting them jobs. But to succeed, they’re going to need more.
Ironically, I’ve found the generation that is so driven by social media to be somewhat lacking in social skills. Millennials are witty, bold, and innovative over direct message, but some can come across as indirect and shy in person. So, when it comes to interns succeeding in business, it’s time for a #throwback. Those who can master the archaic art of verbal communication will have a leg up. Here’s how:
- Introduce yourself
Know who the CEO and other executives are. Know who holds the position you hope to hold one day. Many interns come to our network, sit in the newsroom, bury their heads in a computer, and wait for someone to approach them. People are busy doing their jobs, but that doesn’t mean they’re not willing to help. It’s up to you to make the ask. Email an executive if you’re having trouble tracking them down and invite them for coffee one morning, or ask if they have a quick minute to meet in the office. They will be surprisingly generous of their time, and might even be willing to mentor you. I always make a point to schedule time for any intern who simply asks.
- Come to learn
You are lucky enough to be surrounded by people who are what you want to be. Find out how they got there. Ask them what they do on a daily basis, and then learn how to do it. Never be scared to ask questions. Inquisitive interns show passion. Plus, being labeled “coachable” means you’re also “hirable.”
- Take initiative
Through observing the company workflow, figure out how you can contribute. Offer to do menial tasks. Write down new ideas and then bring them to the table. Interns bring a fresh, young perspective. Nobody will fault you for proposing original ideas. Self-starters show they can be trusted with responsibility. Responsibility leads to versatility, which leads to employment when a job opens.
About a year ago, the NFL Network hired a research intern who would bring me random sports factoids for my broadcast that were a little outside of the box. I didn’t always use them, but when the director of our research department was looking for recommendations for temporary hires, I offered her name.
- Know that nothing is beneath you
When that job opens, take it—even if the salary is low. Success doesn’t happen overnight, and there’s nothing wrong with starting at the bottom. That’s where you make mistakes that will be the least devastating to your professional reputation—and you can still learn from them. The money and the position will come later, but you have to get in the game. Take a side job to pay the bills if your career can’t. I waited tables after work and on weekends for almost two years while working on-air at a small TV station in Salisbury, Md. My dream was bigger than my pride.
- Leave with something tangible
NFL Network interns who want to be on-air often book studio time so they can leave the internship with a demo link showing their on-camera potential. Architects: Leave with a set of blueprints you designed. Future business owners: Come up with your first business model. Have something in your hand that you can take into a job interview. It will show you are capable of seeing a project to fruition.
- Use youth to your advantage
Whether for marketing, innovation, or networking, most industries are integrating social media into their everyday existence. Millennials are proficient at what is becoming a mandatory skill. Generation X is not. We need you. Brainstorm ideas on how your company can use social platforms to its advantage. Present them to people in high positions. Show your strength in what is an area of weakness for most companies.
Business is all about relationships. Be memorable and stay connected to the people who take an interest in you. Remember that this is the time in your life when you don’t have many distractions. Take advantage of that freedom and enjoy the possibilities.