Don’t Be a Passive Intern: Manage Up

Managing Up

Image Credit: GovLoop

By Victoria Maseda, Director of Finance  

At the start of a summer internship, getting a sense for your office, your co-workers and most importantly your supervisors is the key to success. Taking the first week to observe what the office environment is like is one way to get the lay of the land. However, passively taking a back seat throughout the summer is not the way to gain practical work experience. Senior-level public relations professional, Ed Menninger, encourages interns to not be afraid to manage up when interacting with their supervisors and bosses.

Here are a few of Menninger’s tips on how to actively engage with upper level management:

1. Be reliable.

Following through on projects is a sure fire way to show reliability. Whether or not you meet the project or client’s deadlines will prove to your boss if you are a dependable employee. Additionally, showing you are reliable will help you to build trust with your boss and in turn they will feel more comfortable giving you additional responsibilities.

2. Don’t overreact to criticism.

Feedback is the key to growth. Always ask for feedback in your “adult” voice. Your child’s voice asks for criticism in a whiney way, whereas your parent’s voice demands it – adult’s voice is the happy medium and most effective way to ask for feedback. Understand that constructive criticism can be a little hard to hear at times. Most importantly, do not take criticism personally. Simply because someone does not like the work you produced does not mean they do not like you.

3. Ask yourself, “How can I meet their most critical needs?”

This question requires you to keep your boss and client’s needs first and foremost. It also requires you to be a little bit of a psychic. Try to be a few steps ahead of the project or your boss’ thoughts at all times. Don’t think of immediate finish lines, but think towards the future to anticipate how you can continually add value to your project beyond your assigned tasks. Learn to prioritize which aspects of your boss’ requests are urgent and which ones can be addressed later on.

4. Be a self-starter.

A key aspect to being a self-starter is asking a lot of questions to gain more clarity and context. Get as much information as you can to get a jump start on upcoming project. Asking questions also show you are taking initiative and are engaged in your work. In turn, you will be more prepared with solutions for problems that may arise.

5. Understand your boss(es) and yourself: goals, pressure, strength/weakness/blind spots, preferred work style.

Effectively working with upper-level management and reaching your full potential requires you to have good relationships with your boss and yourself. Details that may seem small such as whether your boss prefers to communicate via email or phone or if he or she does not work efficiently in high stress situations will go a long way in how you interact with your boss. On the same token, know how to reach your fullest working potential by focusing on your strengths, while sharpening your weaknesses or understanding which methods keep you most organized.

Attentiveness to detail in your interactions with upper-level management will allow you to focus on the relationship with your boss and how to obtain the best results for yourself, your boss and your organization. Actively meeting your boss’ needs will lead to overall success for the business because your boss has a perspective of the bigger picture. As an intern, now is the time to learn the value of managing up in order to build a solid foundation for future career success. Don’t be afraid to step up to the plate and manage up.

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