When I was in Grade 9, I thought I wanted either to be a famous film director or to own and operate a small fish ’n’ chips shop — somehow at age 14 the idea of having access to an endless amount of fried fish was inspiring and purposeful.
Feeling a bit chubby from eating three years too much of fried fish, I decided after high-school graduation that I would go to university and get my bachelor’s degree in Applied Theatre — and maybe make a short documentary film on fish ’n’ chips shop owners. Well, two years into my degree, I changed my mind again, and decided travelling and experiencing life from different cultures would help me become more creative than my education would.
Whether my early career strategy is considered right or wrong, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned has been to follow my passions and gut instincts, rather than adopt a “should” mentality. The impact of this has led me be confident in my creative abilities, and also allowed me identify my own unique voice in a sea of talented people.
As an intern you may be at the bottom of the pecking order, but it’s important to remember not to sweat the small stuff. This is your opportunity to change your mind 15 times, make mistakes, fail at tasks, and learn about yourself as a professional, because behind every great success in life is a great failure.
Here are some tips on how to foster confidence when working in an intern role:
- Practise the art of talking over people. Be loud. While talking over someone is rude in most instances, finishing your thoughts or ideas with confidence in a rowdy brainstorming roomful of creative people — even when it feels like you’re being rude — is necessary. Shy and timid ideas will most likely get dismissed.
- Touch base with your supervisor/mentor regularly and ask for feedback. Listen with an open mind, and ask for specific behavioural examples and the impacts. Be brave and turn the exchange around. Assume positive intentions from their actions, and offer feedback to them as well.
- Find a healthy balance between fake-it-till-you-make-it and being vulnerable and asking for help. Missed opportunities and regrets makes for an OK B-grade movie title.
- Have positive conversations with as many people as you can. The energy you interchange and leave with others has a powerful impact on their memory of you. In an industry dependent on networking, you want your co-workers and superiors to have a genuine and positive point of reference for you.
- Embrace your unique perspective with conviction. While your company has its own branding, so do you. You need to find an effective way of expressing yourself that promotes the company’s identity. Practising this will help you recognize your creative voice.