Build trust to improve your professional brand
To carry out technical tasks might be challenging enough for you but, at the same time, it's important to think about how you're perceived by others. When you're just getting started and throughout your career, you want to be perceived as someone who delivers strong results on time and who communicates well by asking the right questions along the way.
Because you're new to the organization, you start out as an unknown quantity to your colleagues. By building people's trust in you as an employee and a colleague, and by managing your relationships proactively, you'll establish your personal brand as someone to be respected. You're more likely to be given greater and greater responsibility, and to be considered for promotion to your next job level in the company.
Build trust as an employee
Good managers are looking for skilled, reliable employees who contribute to the organization by providing solid impact. Great managers also value individuals who bring their whole selves to work, who come as they are, and who are willing to grow.
It's a common mistake for new interns to try to impress co-workers by promising to deliver a ton of work. In so doing, you're likely setting yourself up for some disappointment. A smarter tactic is to focus on a single small task, complete it, and then identify other small, related tasks to deliver next, as time permits. When you deliver on the smaller commitment first, teammates will begin to see you as trustworthy. And when you deliver a few extras as well, you might start to impress the people around you.
In a nutshell, your formula for success here is to under-promise and over-deliver.
An important part of your professional life is learning how to manage your time. This includes not only where you spend your time but how you think about time.
Ensure that you're on time for work, for meetings, or for whatever the occasion is. If you know your bus tends to run late, aim to be at work 30 minutes or more before your expected arrival.
It's common for managers to arrive at work early. If you and your manager are the only ones there first thing, it's an excellent opportunity to have a quick chat over coffee or tea.
Your time is finite - use it well
There are 24 hours in a day, no more and no less. That time is all you have to be as effective as possible. Your workday will most likely include focus time, meetings, and breaks. You need to plan for all these activities. Your company might decide when lunch is, but you're likely in control of most of your day. Make sure that you have a sufficient amount of uninterrupted time to focus on your principal tasks.
Also, plan short breaks into your day from time to time. It's common to experience breakthroughs on tough problems when you aren't focused intently on them.
You need downtime - practice self-care
It's tempting, when starting a new job, to focus 100 percent of your attention on your work. You might be tempted to be the last person to leave the office, do much unpaid overtime, work weekends, and socialize off-hours with your colleagues. A little of this goes a long way. Let's discuss time management as a new intern.
Rest, hydrate, eat well, and exercise. Cultivate a social life outside your job. You should try to become friendly and collegial with coworkers. Don't, however, center your entire world around that small circle. Remember, it's unlikely that your first job will be your last, so meet and make friends with many people outside your work.
Remember to take breaks during your work hours. Take care of your posture and eyes. Intensive focus on programming can be tough on your eyesight, and sitting still for hours is bad for your health. If you have access to a standing desk, that can be helpful to maintain your posture. Ask someone in your company if they can help you set up your work space with ergonomic standards in mind.
Software engineering and all the learning you are doing in this position are mentally taxing, so be sure to get enough rest.
"Manage up" for career success
The concept of managing up is the idea of working openly and directly with your manager so that they're aware of your goals and can help you grow your career. Managing up isn't inherently disrespectful of your manager. Rather, it's the idea of working collaboratively toward a common objective.
How your manager sees you is key to whether you intern position will turn into a full-time position. It's important to develop and maintain a good relationship with your manager, and a good way to do so is to ask questions that will help you understand how well you're doing in your job.
You can help frame your conversations with your manager by asking some important questions, including:
- Where do you see me in one year? Five years? Ten years?
- What can I do to better align myself with the department's strategies and goals?
- What resources are available to me to grow my knowledge base and keep learning?
- What do you see as my strengths? My weaknesses? How can I amplify one and improve the other?
Ask for feedback
Seek specific feedback from your manager, teammates, and colleagues. What is expected of you? It's best to know this up front so that you can perform a task and then ask how you can improve in execution. Make notes of this feedback, and review them periodically.
A good idea is to ask for two things you do well and an area that you can grow in. Ask for specific examples so you understand how you could have done a situation differently.
You should know by the end of an internship how much you have grown and what people think of your performance.
Developer Advocate Gustavo Cordido discusses the importance of asking questions.