Five Lessons from My MBA Summer Internship
Ask questions, take risks and make the most of every day
Being an intern can be hard sometimes.
You’re new, it can be an intimidating environment, your temporary role has no guarantees, and you don’t have expert status in the organization. But fear not. The benefits of internships far outweigh the cons, so use your ‘intern’ title to your advantage.
That’s what I did over the last three months as part of my internship with Blue Shield of California. Although the experience went by fast, I learned a lot. I also found out that I could use my status as an intern to my advantage in the following ways:
- Use it as an opportunity to ask questions, big or small.
I could fall back on my “intern” title to ask the most basic questions or the most challenging ones—and I did. That helped because I could ask about anything: from explaining simple industry terms and company acronyms, to challenging certain processes. Asking questions will allow you to:
- Gain a better understanding of the industry.
- Learn how the company approaches tasks.
- Challenge the status quo.
- Email anyone to ask for a one-on-one meeting to chat about their job and how they got there.
This is your unique opportunity to contact upper management in any department, request a one-on-one meeting, and have them be happy to sit down with you. Blue Shield of California values its interns and each of the employees I contacted were more than happy to help out and chat.
This is a great benefit for those still searching for the right career path. It can also help you answer those hard-to-ask questions. A key lesson I learned from these meetings: no one, not even the company executives, had their career planned out. They got where they are today through accepting to take on challenges and pushing past their comfort zones, often taking on positions in departments than they were not familiar. Bottom line: Be brave.
- Make mistakes.
“Interns are not expected to know and be able to do everything. Be bold, try, and if you don’t succeed, ask for help and try again.”
- Every day is an interview.
As an intern, every colleague you meet is a potential networking opportunity. Dress and act the part at all times, and you may just meet the person who can help further your career.
- Make the most of your time.
I was fortunate to have managers who wanted me to experience as much as possible during my internship. They presented opportunities for me to meet with co-workers from many departments, attend meetings I thought would be interesting, participate in leadership development opportunities. I even spent three days at a transformation event related to a different department just because I was interested in it.
Make the most of your summer. Take advantage of the unique opportunities, because you are there to learn.
I was fortunate to spend some of my time at Blue Shield with two other fellow MBA students, Lester Huynh and Alex Callagy.
Lester and Alex worked in Finance and Market at the health insurance provider’s headquarters in San Francisco. I worked in the Internal Audit department at the company’s location in El Dorado Hills.