After two and a half months as an intern on the Technology and Advanced Analytics team at West Monroe’s Seattle office, I’m taking a lot of advice with me back to school this fall. This experience taught me much more than what I could discuss in a single blog post, and I’m confident the skills I learned this summer will help me as I complete my final year of school and move on to the working world. Below are the top five pieces of advice I am taking away as my internship finishes up.
It’s ok to feel like you’re drowning
My first week on a project was admittedly a struggle. Each time my team called a meeting, I tried desperately to soak in information. I jotted down notes and asked questions, yet couldn’t seem to grasp the purpose of what we were doing, let alone my role.
This feeling I felt was one of drowning. The more I struggled, the more my coworkers told me to relax.
I learned part of the beauty of consulting is having many opportunities to gain new knowledge. Each time you’re placed on a new project, there’s a potential it’s with a new client, or focused on an industry you are less familiar with (healthcare coverage in my case).
While it may be a lot to take in at first, I now know that feeling overwhelmed is normal, and maybe even something to embrace!
Strike a balance between being independent and asking for help
As an intern, it can be hard to know what questions to ask and when to ask them. You want to be independent and self-manage yourself, but there are moments when you’re truly stumped and can’t find the answer.
During the first half of my internship, I asked A LOT of questions. I was curious about everything and wanted to decipher the healthcare and consulting cultures I knew so little about. There are good times and bad times to ask questions though, and types of questions better left for Google.
In the second half of my internship, I pushed myself to be more independent and solve tough problems on my own. While this was an improvement from asking too many questions, it’s important to still strike a balance and continue to ask questions when the time’s right.
The last thing you want to do is waste an entire day solving a simple problem someone could’ve helped you fix in five minutes.
My advice: put genuine effort into solving tough problems. If you still don’t have an answer after utilizing online resources, reach out to a mentor or co-worker working on the same project.
At West Monroe, every employee has a career adviser they can go to for help. If you’re lucky like me, they may even be on the same project as you!
Feedback is your best friend
Feedback can be a touchy subject for a lot of people. While it’s easy to receive positive feedback, it’s not quite as easy or comfortable to hear about the areas you need to work on.
Regardless of emotions though, feedback is vital to truly grow as an individual and improve the work you produce. It’s also a very prominent part of West Monroe’s culture as it helps us ultimately serve our clients better.
One thing I pushed myself to do throughout my internship was be honest with my team and mentors when I knew I’d slipped up or had a less productive week. This helped open conversations to constructive feedback and make it an easier topic to talk about.
Now as I enter my final weeks as an intern, I can confidently say I’m aware of the areas I need to work on as well as my strengths. This leaves little room for surprises during my final review, and has got me thinking of ways to improve my weaknesses as well as play up my natural abilities.
Set goals and actively work towards them
While this may seem obvious, I personally have not done this as proactively as I should have in the past. I set goals, but sometimes forgot to put structure around them.
At West Monroe, the goal-setting process is different. It’s purposeful, well-supported and all-encompassing.
During my first full week at work, I was asked to take some time to think about what I truly wanted to accomplish. The first thoughts that came to mind were client-related; however, my career adviser told me to also consider relationships and community involvement goals.
He then had me record my goals online, and create corresponding action items. As weeks passed by, we reviewed my progress and made sure I was on track to complete what I’d set out to accomplish.
Because of this process, I was motivated to volunteer with Girls Who Code, the Good Shepherd Center in Seattle, and the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Inside the office, I promoted fitness by helping plan an office field day; complete with snacks, prizes and fun ways for my colleagues to get active.
Coming into my internship, I would’ve never guessed I could accomplish all of this in addition to my client work. However, I’m so happy I did, as many of the relationships I built and valuable lessons I learned stemmed from getting involved with these extra activities.
Going forward, I want to take this goal-setting mentality into my personal life. This summer is proof of what I can accomplish with a focused mindset and support from my peers.
Field Day at West Monroe!
Put people first
At the end of the day, the people and West Monroe’s culture is what made my internship truly meaningful.
When I first started here, I heard a lot of talk about the company’s ‘people first,’ mentality and wasn’t sure what to expect.
Weeks later, I know now it can’t be pinned down to one thing the company does. It is a West Monroe value ingrained in everything. From one-on-one coffee chats and volunteer service projects to a mentorship ladder that reaches all levels.
Why is this an important piece of advice to follow?
Being ‘people first’ can cultivate happiness and well-being. In a typically client-focused culture like consulting, it can be easy for companies to forget about the individuals working so hard for them – making it difficult to know if someone is enjoying their work, feeling challenged or able to focus due to ongoing events in their life.
If you take care of your people though, they will, in turn, take care of your clients.
Post-internship, I hope to practice this mentality by keeping up with the people who practice it every day; my West Monroe co-workers. I’m also going to look at the mentors in my personal life and academic culture and work on spending more genuine time with them.
Thanks for reading! If you have questions about interning at West Monroe, please leave a comment below and I’d be happy to provide more details about my experience.