Career Advice

It’s Sometimes About That Little Extra—Advice for Future Interns

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(4 min read) By Najeen Riazi

I have always considered myself to be lucky. But last year was particularly fortuitous. I was entrusted with one of IBM’s greatest resources—a new generation of talent: the IBM interns.

Having been an intern myself at different points in my career, I wanted to save our blossoming talent from the bruises I earned, tripping over my own intern feet. Fortunately, they were far smarter and far more prepared than I was at their age. Each came armed with tangible experience, a self-driven hunger for learning, and an audible desire to show up with their best each day.

To say I was impressed is an understatement. I learned much more from them than I ever could have taught them. This is why I spent my summer wanting to serve and support augmenting every ounce of their talent. Their hard work and dedication were 99% of their excellence last summer, but here is what I asked of them to clinch that last 1%.

Be respectful.

Communication, timeliness, and conscientiousness are excellent ways to convey that you are an excellent teammate, employee, and future leader. Respectfulness will ultimately be interpreted through the lens of the recipient, depending on their culture, bias, and upbringing. While I would never advocate supplicating to the particular nuances of every person around you, I think there’s value in understanding what people value.

Be deliberate.

The 10 weeks will go quickly. Make the most of it. Determine what works best for you, and think about how you can add value and be impactful. We are all presented with opportunities to complete our work in a way that is effective and appreciated. Determining opportunities to improve the operation around you is an excellent way to showcase an understanding of the priorities and culture of both your team and your client.

Pay attention to the details.

The enjoyment and satisfaction of the recipients of your inspiring work will be dwarfed by minor mistakes and overlooked details. Show those around you that you are as capable of looking at the big picture as you are in executing the smallest detail.

Practice forgiveness.

This holds true for everyone around you. Forgive yourself for the time you gave a completely wrong answer, out loud, in front of everyone, on a recorded session, and then doubled down trying to explain why it was actually right. It wasn’t. You weren’t. The biggest mistake here would be to let that define your day, week or summer. Absorb it, forgive it, and do better.

Forgive the mentor who would love nothing more than to give you their complete attention today, and maybe isn’t nailing #1. We have all had distracted days where we were worried about a sick child, sick puppy, sick mother, sick self or maybe the Packers just lost. Do not absorb the feeling of being dismissed. Forgive it, and do better when you are given the next opportunity to show someone else they are important.

Forgive your peer interns. Some of them will be smarter than you, and will not display their patience in flattering ways. You will be smarter than some and will feel the weight of that burden. Champion your differences, forgive the small annoyances, and do better, together.

Thank you to my favorite internship class, the IBM Marketing & Communications Summer Interns of 2019. You have been excellent teachers, and I am grateful you chose us.

To learn more about our internship program and apply, please click the link here.

About the Author
Najeen Riazi is the New York Lead for the Marketing & Communications Summer Internship Program. She joined IBM in 2017 after receiving her MBA from the Johnson School of Management at Cornell University. She is a proud Minnesotan and a passionate advocate for servant leadership.


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