The “corporate world” has such a negative ring to it… but my internship completely banished that stereotype for me. I was able to intern at Cisco Systems this summer and my expectations were more than exceeded. Walking into the corporate world with no real world experience was pretty intimidating. Oh, and on top of that, I was walking into a company that has 70,000+ employees, all of whom were in higher positions than me. By the end of the summer I felt comfortable approaching anyone, even the CEO, and learned a few tips to hand off to any other budding entrepreneurs entering the corporate world…
Classic right? What’s a “helpful tip” blog post without mentioning networking?! Seriously though I can’t stress this enough. Block out time on your calendar to meet someone new every day – a 30 minute chat over coffee can go a really long way. A co-worker of mine set up a 1:1 with a director of sales and by the end of it he wanted to sponsor her trip to the San Jose headquarters. No one will ever be too busy to meet with you, especially when you show interest in meeting them, and take the initiative to reach out. We were able to get time with the Chief Marketing Officer just by reaching out!
2. Participate in as much as you can
Odds are if you are in a corporate setting, there are going to be guest speakers coming in, workshops being held, or even social lunch events. Go to everything. You are going to learn a lot from your internship; but you’re going to learn even more by attending these events. Cisco had an innovation challenge that a few interns participated in, and they won! Their idea will be implemented into the company, and they also got apple watches! The company is putting on these events to benefit you, so why not take advantage? Plus, it’s a great way to get away from your desk for an hour or two.
3. Speak up
If you’re anything like me you’ll sit through your first 3 team meetings with nothing to say – well, wake up! At this point you’re not of any value to your team. Express your thoughts—heck, you’re an entrepreneur — you’ve got great ideas! If you aren’t finding interest or challenge in your project,- reach out to a team that looks interesting to you and ask for a stretch project (while still completing your original projects, of course). This also shows that you’re taking initiative to find out what you like and don’t like—hiring managers will be impressed to see you narrowing down your options for potential full time positions.
4. Save up!
Corporate pays well- know how to handle your money but don’t be afraid to treat yo self! Take a vacation with friends, but don’t expect to go abroad. Be smart and put a % of your paycheck into your savings and don’t touch it– those books and student loans aren’t going to pay for themselves! I told myself I’d start a budget so I wouldn’t go overboard, but- half my money was gone by the end of summer… oops!
5. Utilize weekends and weeknights
Yes, working 8-5 Monday-Friday is rough—but when the clock strikes 5 you are off the hook, there is no studying or homework to do and your weekends are completely free! As an intern, keep it that way. Do not go home and open your laptop, do not work on the weekends. Make this time available for friends, family, and alone time! Volunteer at your local animal shelter or enjoy the events going on in your town. If you truly are working diligently throughout the day there is no reason not to have fun after work!
Catch up with Marisa’s latest internship adventures on Twitter at @MarisaAtCisco.