Internship opportunities are a great way for students or undergraduates to gain some insights into the professional world as they explore their career paths, obtain valuable work experience, and build their network.
It is always exciting to work in an organisation for the first time, collaborate in teams to solve problems, and of course, interact with your first manager.
If you’ve held part-time jobs while at school – chances are that interacting with your colleagues in an office setting is going to be a completely different and new experience.
Sure, you may initially be assigned to do mundane tasks such as filing or making photocopies, but in order to succeed in your internship and make the most of it, interaction with your leader is important.
It is essential to let those responsible for your internship programme know that you are interested in more responsibilities and work directly with individuals that you can learn from.
Here are five types of leaders you may potentially encounter as an intern, as well some tips on how you can work better with each style of leadership.
As a newcomer in the office, it’s always nice to have a person you can talk to and it’s a bonus if this person is also the manager who oversees your internship performance.
The Friend is someone who is trustworthy and someone you will feel comfortable with. This leader likes to get to know you beyond just as a colleague and is most probably everyone’s favourite “go-to” person in the office. Most importantly, you will realise that The Friend has a natural ability to skillfully manage relationships up, down and sideways.
He or she values relationship and tends to view colleagues as family members. A positive working environment that emphasises relationship building is a priority on this leader’s list.
Tip: Be willing to share more about yourself with The Friend. If you need help at work, do not hesitate to approach this leader as he or she is more than willing to assist and guide you along the way.
Similar to The Friend, The Parent is the leader you can trust and go to with your problems in the office.
You know that he or she is able to help you with your problems at work and ensure you get the most out of your internship. Your growth as an intern matters to The Parent and they will be all about nurturing, helping you develop and improving your skills over time.
Being The Parent also means that this leader places a certain emphasis on hierarchy in the office, and he or she tends to value existing structure within the organisation.
Tip: Be curious and express your willingness to learn and do more. The Parent will appreciate your adaptive attitude and you will walk away with a more enhanced internship experience.
This Principal is a leader that often focuses on the big picture – both in terms of the organisation and your individual career. This individual has clear goals in mind and knows exactly what he or she wants from his or her team.
In other words, this leader knows just what he or she wants from you. The Principal is motivational and is great at pushing the team to achieve end goals. He or she is a respected figure in the office and is less approachable compared to the other types of leaders you may come across.
The Principal is also able to effortlessly assess situations at work and prioritise agendas, as well as set the pace for the team.
Tip: Do not be afraid to approach The Principal if you need help. You will be surprised by how agreeable he or she is to provide assistance and guidance. When communicating with The Principal, share less about the specifics, but more about steps in achieving the ultimate goal. When in doubt, do not be afraid to ask.
The Problem Solver
This is the leader everyone turns to for help to sort out challenges.
As he or she makes decisions, The Problem Solver is able to easily see the connectivity between cause and effect and to make cogent plans and build step-by- step approaches. Mostly importantly, this leader knows when to be flexible about yielding to better processes and best practices. He or she adapts to new ideas to incorporate into progressive solutions, and is always on the lookout for opportunities, even within problems.
The Problem Solver is someone you can seek for resolutions of issues, but he or she is probably less likely to be the person to approach if you are considering converting your internship into a full-time job, as his or her priority is more about results and not necessarily your growth.
Tip: Come with ideas or inspirations to share or ponder with the Problem Solver as this person is likely to give good feedback and encourage you to think outside the box. This leader also loves to be challenged so be prepared for some intensive brainstorming sessions.
The Influencer is probably one of the most persuasive individuals in the office.
He or she seems to have a knack to move others towards accepting new ideas by using reason and emotions. You will notice this leader is usually the taskmaster within the team and places importance on structural hierarchy, as well as how power and influence is distributed in the workplace.
The Influencer is also harmonious and rounded in demeanour with others, yet he or she is not afraid to stand up for causes he or she believes in and insists on performance metrics as attributes.
Tip: To succeed under this leader, be sure to listen intently to understand his or her instructions and to articulate or communicate that you are doing so. Once you win the heart of The Influencer, you can be sure to benefit from a smoother relationship with this leader.
Know Your Leaders To Learn From Them
With so many different leadership styles in an organisation, it will take some time for a new person to get to know everyone’s work styles predispositions. Some leaders may even display multiple characteristics from each of the personas identified above.
As an intern, know your leaders and learn how you can work best with them. You never know who will be the first to offer you that full-time job you are aspiring towards.
Final tip: For leaders who are considering putting together a college internship program, reflect on the following recommendations:
- Use the same criteria / practices to select college interns as you would for the rest of your employees. Treat them as full-time equals to build the trust quickly.
- Once selected, on-board them in the same way as all of your staff. An enlightened experience sets the stage in gaining the loyalty of these new people.
- On the first day, on-boarding should include sessions with the senior leadership team so that the interns know the importance of the contribution of any associate.
- Include icebreaker activities to facilitate getting to know each other. An organisation where people know each other will be a more engaged workforce.
- Incorporate culture and social responsibility into the college internship experience. Emphasise to them the importance of your organisation’s purpose, vision, mission.
- Make sure that the interns are treated as peers and are paid for the time they put into your company to improve their sense of value.
Stephen Wang is the Managing Director at the Talent Plus Asia-Pacific Office in Singapore.