In my line of work, I have a chance to interact with interns fairly regularly. And by interact, I mean in the Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society way, not the Bill Clinton way. Recently, I had an intern ask me my observation of the “soft skills” necessary for an intern to be successful. That got me thinking, which led to an a-ha moment: I look really, really good in a tight t-shirt. Most guys can’t pull off that look. But I can. And for that, I feel blessed. Then another a-ha came to me: “yes, and” is a soft skill critical to intern success.
Interns are a unique breed. They know they are hired by an organization for a limited duration, and therefore, need to thump their chests rather quickly to make a lasting impression. Chances are likely that there are multiple interns, but a much smaller number of full time job opportunities, and now the thumping isn’t just quick, it’s loud. They are also the creme de la creme of their class; hence, they were selected for an internship. There’s a need to make their alma mater proud, and so now guttural howling comes with the thumping. This combination of healthy egos in a highly competitive environment can make for a rather apish experience.
Standing proudly atop a school desk has given me perspective of a soft skill paramount to internship success. Interns make the best impression on organizations when they can honor the old guard by “yes-ing” that which has already been established, then “and-ing” by contributing their own unique, fresh approach. Interns who only know how to “yes” appear mindless and too eager to please, while interns who only know how to “and” can easily offend by not acknowledging valuable contributions made my others.
The same holds true in improv scenes. Skipping past your scene partner’s contribution and jumping right to your own idea makes you a stage hog. And simply agreeing with your scene partner without contributing doesn’t move the scene forward. Scenes are best played on stage with a hearty, “yes,” which shows you agree with information already established, followed by a committed, “and,” which moves ideas forward. Just like internships should be played in the workplace.
Now, let’s talk a little more about how good I look in a tight t-shirt…