Politics of an internship? So many people say they are “not into politics” but the truth is if there is more than one person in a room then POLITICS are involved. Human nature – can’t be helped. One thing we don’t teach students is how important it is to be “Politically Astute”. This can be especially true when students are heading out to do internships or into that all important first job.
Firstly we have to dispel the negative connotation that has attached itself to the word “politics”.
Having solid political skills does not have to mean that you are a selfish and conniving, overly ambitious person who is prepared to do or say anything to get up to the next rung on that corporate ladder. Being “political” can be a good thing because it means that you can see and understand the best way to go about getting what you need for not just you, but also the members of your team, and your company to succeed. The most successful leaders know that they should use their political skills for the good of the team – not just for personal gain.
You cannot be successful on your own. Successful people have “cheerleaders”. Successful people get to the “top” because they have the support of the people with whom they work, the support of their customers and suppliers. So if you’re a student about to head into an internship or if you’re just about to start that first job here are some pointers that might make a difference to you as you move through your career.
- Show a Real and Sincere Interest in the People Around you
Ask questions. Don’t talk about yourself – talk about the people around you. Get to know them. Get to know their names, where they’re from, what they like and don’t like about their jobs? ASK QUESTIONS and then LISTEN to the answers. Being able to call a person by his/her name the second time you meet him/her is not only kind of impressive but it shows people that you actually do have an interest in them.
- Respect The Power People – But Show Even More Respect to the Powerless
Be kind to the people who have the least amount of power. Quite often students make a huge effort to get to know the “boss” – their manager, their manager’s boss. That’s a given, if the people in power know you they are more likely to pay attention to you.
BUT TRUE LEADERS start “at the bottom”. They understand that the people who are working in supporting roles are the most important people in any organization. In the Events Industry you might be working with a banquet porter who has a Masters’ Degree in Engineering. The dishwasher could very well be a doctor while the bartender’s “second job” is teaching English to newcomers. Our industry is very transient and people from all different backgrounds take jobs in banquets, events, etc. to support families, to pay for further education, whatever! So these people, the people who have the least amount of power deserve your respect. They work hard. Their jobs are important but all too often they are “invisible”. We walk right past them to go and chat with the manager, thinking this is the best way to get ahead.
So here’s the secret! If you show those with less power the respect they deserve they will remember that you showed them respect when many others have not. Once you start to build your career you may be managing some of these people. Respect them, be genuinely interested in them and they will lift you UP. Ignore them because they are “not important” and they will do what they can to tear you DOWN.
- Shine that Spotlight On Others – And the Spotlight WILL Come Back to Shine on You.
Have you ever worked with a manager who was ‘never wrong” even when he/she was ALWAYS wrong? He/she was quick to blame the team for mistakes but when things went really well he/she was quick to take the applause. How’d you like working for that manager?
If you want to build support from the people around you, you first have to work hard to recognize them. Take the time to say THANK YOU to people. Thank the people that help you- better still – thank them in front of the boss and/or the customers. Credit must be given where credit is due. Everybody wants some recognition so you should be the person to get that for them.
Letting the General Manger know about a co-worker who did a great job could get that co-worker some well-deserved recognition. AND it will also get you that co-worker’s respect and appreciation. Take the time to be sure that the other members of your team get rewarded and they will, at some point down the road, reward you for that.
- So You Screwed Up? – Admit It, Fix It and Move On.
Everybody makes mistakes. That’s how we learn. If you make a mistake then OWN it. Don’t hide. Don’t try and shift blame. Don’t make excuses. It’s much more painless to just own up to it – find a way to fix it – apologize – learn from it and move on. Kind of like ripping of a bandage – FAST is less painful, SLOW ends up hurting you way way more.
- Fight for the Team – Not Just for Yourself
If you have to fight for something fight for the good of your customers or your team. If trying to get the BEST office for yourself is your focus you are not going to create “warm and fuzzy” feelings within your team. BUT if you fight hard to get better equipment for the department or if you fight hard to get something that is important to the other members of your team or to customers you will create a sense of gratitude and loyalty. Again, if you’re there for them when they need you then they will be there for you when you’re in need of some support. You do them a favour and they are much more likely to help you out down the road.
Here’s an Overlooked TRUTH: Managers are only as successful as the people who work for them. This is not brain surgery but so often far too few people take the time to build relationships with the people around them. You can’t do this alone.
So kick off the internship or start your new job on the right foot. Get to know people. Treat them with respect. Do people favors when you can. Shoulder your share of the blame when things go wrong. And take the time to say thank you! Give it a shot. You’ll be amazed at the ways that you’ll be rewarded!
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