One of the biggest worries of entering a job site as the intern is the possibility of becoming the gofer (pronounced gopher). A properly designed internship program would take the desired job position and establish roles and responsibilities between both the intern and the supervisor, minimizing the possibilities of you performing menial errands for the sake of convenience.
So what do you do if after all the agreements and words of reassurance that you will not have your availability misused, you still find yourself making a pizza run for your coworkers?
My warrior intern, I would like to give you a quote from Sun Tzu’s Art of War:
“Rapidity is the essence of war: take advantage of the enemy’s unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack unguarded spots”
Before you take this literally, put away the samurai sword and understand the relevance.
“Take advantage of the enemy’s unreadiness” – In the office or at a job site, nothing keeps coworkers on their toes more than an innocent challenge of technical knowledge. I’m not stating that you perform a Jeopardy joust to the point where you’re more annoying than newbie-curious, but rather take advantage of every opportunity to get answers to questions that will help you build your proficiency. When you come back from that pizza run and open up the box, unleash your arsenal of questions and see how quick people are to stuff their face to avoid having to answer. The one that takes the time to address your questions despite hunger pangs is the person you should begin to shadow. You want to make every day of your internship count and you’ll need to identify your best sources for information to do this.
“Make your way by unexpected routes” - Alright, so not every gofer situation is a pizza run. What if you’re the lucky intern who always has to make copies?
The path to the copier machine is yours to define. Embrace the opportunity to develop your interdepartmental relationship building skills along the way. Securing your place in the industry starts with acceptance by its community. Tread lightly with this tactic for he who comes without bearing solutions will be met with a stapler assault.
“Attack unguarded spots” – You will be assigned specific tasks, but as you employ the above strategies, keep an eye out for gaps or duplication in processes or policies. Remember, before you go running around the office bragging about the problem you found, be sure to have a solution readily available. Otherwise, you’ll come off as a complainer and not the asset to the company that you should set out to be.
The internship is your chance to embed yourself into your chosen industry. Don’t let your ego turn a little errand into a missed opportunity for growth.