A View from the Top: How do I maximize my learning in my internship? Part 2.


In last week’s blog, I discussed the importance of using your internship to build critical skills in departmental/functional technology. This week I’d like to highlight the importance of using your internship to build skills in working across departments.

Most organizations are complex animals with complicated management structures and processes. Working across departments is a key competency that is required to successfully implement change. This is a skill that is continuously being honed in all types of organizations and by individual’s at all organizational levels. Building and managing relationships is how work is completed. This competency is so critical that it shows up on the competency assessment list for performance management and/or promotion in almost every large organization around the world. In some cases and for some roles, strong relationship management skills is more important than technical skills.

Your goal, therefore, is to find ways to use your internship to build your relationship management skills.

This competency is difficult to deliver, and often evolves slowly over time. However, there are multiple steps you can take during your internship to begin this journey – which you can later highlight to future employers during the interview process. Relationship management skills are not discussed as publicly as technology skills, therefore you need to be subtle about how you go about acquiring such skills. Listen to see who is invited to meetings. Observe who speaks last in meetings. Pay attention when someone in the department feels that a management decision needs to be challenged, and look to see who steps up to carry the bad news upwards. In other words, observe, observe, and observe some more.

When possible, take the last few minutes of any one on one meeting to ask each individual how they manage relationships, and what they have learned about how to effectively implement change. Request a one on one meeting with your acting supervisor, and tell him or her that you’d like to better understand their strategy for building relationships. Be prepared to listen, and then listen some more. After each meeting ask if there is anyone else that they think that you should speak with.

Such meetings help to educate you about the kind of effort that is required to build and maintain effective relationships. Leadership roles, group work and volunteer efforts help to teach such skills. Properly managed, internships can help to hone and develop your relationship management skills – allowing you to show a connection between all parts of your resume.

You are encouraged to send questions directly to me at e.walker@bentley.edu or to visit me at 310 Adamian. Or simply bookmark this blog which will occur on a regular basis. In our next blog we’ll discuss thank you notes.

By Elaine Walker
Elaine Walker Lecturer