By Margaret Sommers
(From the editor: Margaret Sommers, photo above, is a fourth-year student at Rochester Institute of Technology where she studies Graphic Design. She is a summer intern for Xerox in Webster, N.Y., works as a software implementation intern for the Solutions Enablement Team focusing on developing new uses for XMPie, A Xerox Company.)
I spend my time designing variable data templates, alongside another intern, Cameron Czadzeck. I was asked to give some advice to next year’s interns, and there is so much to talk about. Here are my top five points of advice.
No Expectations: Come into your position with little to no expectations about what you’ll be doing. When I took this job, I thought I would work on printed materials, but I’ve found myself doing more web and information design. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. The experience has expanded my skills to other areas, and allowed me to consider what I really want to do once I graduate.
Be Flexible: Don’t preemptively assume you know everything you’ll do. Come in with a list of things you “want to do” and place it alongside your daily “to do” list. Not everything can be achieved, so you have no reason to overwork yourself and rush into disappointment when things don’t go perfectly the first time — and they won’t perfectly well the first time, but hey, you’re flexible.
Meet People: In a large company like Xerox, it sometimes takes momentum to launch a project. The more people you meet, the more meaningful relationships you cultivate. I joined the Young Professional’s Nexus, an affinity group for the next generation of leaders at Xerox. This group matched me (and other interns) with Xerox employees who have one to 10 years of experience, and who work outside our departments. My mentor, Kate, knows exactly who to send me to within Xerox when I have questions about my career or goals that she can’t answer. She has been extremely supportive with my “I don’t know what I want yet, but I think I have a path and I’ll see where it goes” mentality. (That’s part of my “no expectations” mantra.),
Everyone Is Valuable: Always keep in touch. This goes for the person who works three cubicles away from you as much as the CTO. It’s all good and well to have formal meetings and Q and A sessions, but really getting to know someone on a personal level can make all the difference in how you’re remembered. As a result of these conversations, I’ve been asked to make designs for a tradeshow, write this article, and have one-on-one printing sessions where I set up my files for print. My manager calls these “extracurriculars” to my time because they enrich my summer experience. I never would have had these opportunities if I hadn’t stuck my neck out and said “Hey, this is really cool. Can I learn more? Can I help with this?”
Be Honest: You’re an intern, not a mind reader – if you don’t know what your goal on a project should be, talk with your manager or a coworker about your concerns. You’re expected to come in every day with questions, daily goals, and possibly an elevator speech about it all. Be certain that your goals, whenever you figure them out, are authentically yours. You should have passion or curiosity driving everything you want to achieve. People who work at Xerox will respect your honesty, whether or not you know exactly what experiences you are seeking. If you are honest, open, and authentic about these things, then you’ll go further in your time here.
Get out of your comfort zone. That’s how I got a great experience and a good challenge from my internship at Xerox.