This summer I had the incredible opportunity to join the Plasticity Labs team as a marketing and communications intern. Not only was this my very first time working in a professional setting, but also my first time working on a thriving start-up team. The fast-paced, passionate, and vibrant atmosphere of the company made for an exhilarating and quick few months.
Plasticity is a happiness company, so my internship experience has been especially unique in that I approached it with an attitude of gratitude. Your first time in a professional setting can be overwhelming, so it is important to be mindful of what it is that you are really gaining from this experience. These are the six ways that helped me extract the most value out of my internship this summer.
- Discuss your goals and expectations.
I am halfway through my undergrad now, and I have a good idea of what I want to do for a career. Taking time to discuss my career goals with my incredible mentor really helped to maximize what I was able to learn in my short amount of time here. We were both on the same page and she was able to give me projects that would challenge me and help me learn about my field of interest in ways that that I may not have the chance to learn about in school.
Don’t be afraid to mention what you think will be helpful for your learning! Do you like engaging in team meetings, or would you gain value from listening in on an executive conference call? Ask to participate and take notes, and then reflect on it with your mentor and peers. I found that listening and observing in on company functions were some of the biggest learning opportunities for me.
- Say ‘yes’.
Say yes to everything! There were a few (okay… most) projects that I worked on that I didn’t feel necessarily ‘qualified’ or ready to do, but by saying ‘yes’ I was able to challenge myself and learn as I went along. Not only does this challenge your own abilities, but it is an opportunity for you to show your boss that you are resourceful, capable, and eager.
This also goes for company social activities. Say yes to team lunches and coffee breaks (or ping-pong breaks!). There is no better way to expand your network and get to know the people you work with than by fully immersing yourself in company culture and norms.
- Be a sponge
Actively listen and learn from the feedback you receive from your mentors and coworkers. Take constructive criticism in stride. Accept that there is so much for you to learn!
Work aside, what I learned the most this summer was how a real company operates. The way that people work and behave in professional teams is something that I can only theorize about in school. Soak up the company culture and reflect on how it influences your work ethic and habits, because you just can’t learn these things in school!
- Be authentic
Being your authentic self at work will positively influence your internship. Authenticity makes your relationships with coworkers honest and meaningful, and keeps you focused and in touch with your ultimate goals of this experience. I was in awe with how everyone at Plasticity was able to express their authentic selves at work, and I truly saw the positive impact that this has on workplace culture and morale.
Plasticity research supervisor Dr. Vanessa Buote has just recently had her research published in the Harvard Business Review about the benefits that authenticity has in the workplace. Plasticity definitely stands behind their research and this has greatly impacted my experience here. You can read the article here.
- Have a positive attitude
Be a positive and enthusiastic member of your team. Research shows that happiness positively influences productivity, job satisfaction, workplace relationships and much more. At a happiness company, this wasn’t so hard to do. But keeping a positive attitude when approaching new and unfamiliar tasks or people will open your mind and really make a difference on your overall internship experience.
- One grateful thing a day
One of the cornerstones of Plasticity’s platform and mission is the concept of gratitude. I found that I gained a lot of value in my internship by acknowledging at least one thing a day that I was grateful for at work.
Recognizing what I was grateful for – both the simple and complex things, gradually shifted my perspective of my job, made me happier, and caused me to be more intrinsically motivated at work. This habit has benefits that extend far past the office space. Gratitude is a skill that will impact your whole life.
Unfortunately, my summer is being cut short at Plasticity HQ as I go back to school. I’ll make sure to keep in touch with this awesome team, because they sincerely gave me a first-internship-experience that is better, and happier, than I could ever have imagined!
Sarah Hay is a third year Commerce student at Queen’s University. Her goal is to pursue a career in marketing and brand management. Sarah is also inspired by the resilient and passionate Canadian startup space.