Internships: The advantage of experience cycles

You are an intern at a company. Your boss doesn’t ever seem to have the time for you, he just tells you to do work you consider boring and worthless. And truth be told he’d say the same thing. You still have time left in the internship to make it all worthwhile.

Which is most like you and what would you do?
a. You ask for advice from your friends – this is an honest complaint, you really want this to work.
b. You are glad they are paying you but think what a waste of time and talent, hoping they will finally get around to you.
c. Initially put your head down in frustration wishing you were somewhere else but then you take things into your own hands. You figure out how to ask you boss – without offending him –  to work on areas that will be more engaging and which also will add significant value to the organization.
So which action and outcome do you get?
With the job market so tight and plenty of competition it is important that you build your resume, but equally important that you learn to add value fast. You have to be proactive, show initiative, be a leader. You’ve heard it a thousand times, you don’t need anymore preaching. But what are you really after?
This is real world stuff. I’m glad they are paying you but it won’t add to your experience cycles. You must have manyexperience cycles of different and useful activities to grow rapidly and prepare yourself for getting you first real job.
Complaining to your friends is certainly an outlet, but not going to get those experience cycles. You already probably know who from the experience cycles of drowning your sorrows in too much to drink. Let’s move on to experience cycles that will get your what you are after.
Taking this opportunity and learning all you can even what you know you won’t like doing is adding to your experience cycles. The faster you go through it effectively, by learning and adapting the faster you will be able to impress people when applying for the real job.
You want the experience of leading on
making the complex, simpler;
the hard, easier;
the slow, faster;
the mundane, engaging, and
the average outcome, multiplied in substantial gains.
That’s what you are after. Because by doing that you will be an advantage-maker and an opportunity spotter.
You have to take the situation into your own hands, and with the help of others. Shift the game. There are five ways to get the experience of advantage-making.
1) Shift the Question, don’t accept the givens. See if you can find a way to find a different horse to ride.
A different function or different boss or ask what would make a difference if they were going to hire you and do that job. Ask your friends what questions to ask and please try to avoid saying, “I did that already, they are too busy.” Use the early unworkable questions to trigger ideas that may work. Keep asking until you find a new way. That’s what the rest of us do who have made it in terrible times.
2) Shift time, reduce the amount of time being annoyed, and shift into finding quick things you can do for the company. If you don’t know what to do, and its not your fault since you are an intern, see if you can find someone who will give you 1 important thing to do for the day. Most of the time there is one person who will make a difference.  Shift the time you interact with the boss. If the boss is too busy in the middle of the day, see if you can come in a few minutes early or see if you can walk him out to his car after work.
3) Shift interaction, Have at least one question you want answered that only they can answer and interact with them. Showing them you understand they are busy and you want to get a good recommendation. Ask what will i have to have accomplished by the end of the internship that will make you want to hire someone in my position? (you are not forcing them into a hiring question, that would be a foolish push and not shifting the interaction skillfully) You interact from a position of willing to work and understanding that asking questions and getting feedback are part of being a good contributor.
4) Shift perceptions, this is key. Perception is outcome. Many people say perception is reality, well I don’t think so. Perception does drive behavior. And one important decision trigger for managers is not losing, money or anything else. If the boss sees something that could become a problem he will want someone to work on it. So instead of drudgery work, point out what could go wrong, what will cost more and offer to research a solution that can save money. When they see you will solve his headaches he will ask you to do more useful and what to you will be more meaningful work.
5) Shift the structure. Move to another desk that is in the line of site. Ask if you can work with the team of ‘cool’ people so you can get more out of them. Just make sure that you can still get a recommendation from the ‘boss’.
Suggest to him that you will work on all the things interns are supposed to do, but you most want to have at least one thing that will make a big difference by the end of the internship.
When they ask you how the internship went will you point to your experience cycles?