I’ve had seven internships over the course of my career.
In my fifth stint as an intern, I received a piece of advice that’s stuck with me ever since.
This particular internship was a full-time role over the summer. I was enjoying it, but, in the first few weeks, I felt rather nervous. I worried about whether or not I was impressing my supervisors.
I knew that the firm hired many of its interns, so the possibility of eventually working for the organisation post-graduation was also on my mind.
Then, one day, I was introduced to one of the firm’s directors and invited to hang around her office for a few minutes. This person had a great job and an impressive background in a field that I was interested in. So I asked her what differentiated the interns that received job offers from those who didn’t.
Her response surprised (and scared) me at the time. She said that it wasn’t enough to be smart and hardworking.
After all, she said, we worked in a city and in an industry brimming with perfectly qualified people.
She said that the interns who got hired were not only smart and hardworking — they were also invaluable.
These interns made connections with teams and individuals in the office. They built up trust with their coworkers and contributed consistently excellent work. They got the details right. They became crucial to the success of their managers.
Essentially, they were so good that their superiors just couldn’t imagine working without them.
I thanked her and shuffled out of her office. Ever since that meeting, I’ve tried to apply that insight to any jobs I tackle (with limited success, at times).
There are plenty of naturally smart and talented people in the world. Oftentimes, it’s the drive you bring to a specific role that really makes the difference.
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