Interns Ask Bosses: How can I communicate with my boss about expectations?
Interns are often thought of as being in the lowest position within an office hierarchy. So it’s not surprising that when young adults begin their internships, talking to their supervisors or senior management can be intimidating at first.
As part of our Interns Ask Bosses series, Genevieve Goh*, a second-year undergraduate majoring in real estate, shares about the challenge of understanding what is expected of her and how she can match up to those expectations.
While interning as an HR assistant, I felt that the head of department had very high expectations, but these expectations were not explained directly to me.
The head of the department once told my supervisor that I needed to hurry up on certain assignments. After my supervisor shared this with me, I was confused as I felt that I wasn’t behind on my work at all. I had also truly tried my best to get the work done quickly.
Both the head of the department and my supervisor had even told me that there was no deadline as well.
What kind of quality of work do bosses expect from their interns, and how can interns communicate with their bosses to better understand what is expected of them?
Also, do you have any advice on how an intern can define excellence in the workplace?
To answer Genevieve’s question, we spoke to Claire Wong, Head of DBS Foundation.
Claire has had four years of experience leading a team with six direct reports, including cross-functional teams. She is also a mother of two sons (12 and 9 years old).
REMEMBER THE BIG PICTURE
The workplace is where many of us spend most of our day. Yet, often we struggle to manage work and relationships at our workplaces because it seems so different from what we expect. It is important to start with the “why”. Why are we there?
The first is that we are called to be witnesses to the gospel at our workplaces. In a messy world, where we sin and deal with sin on an ongoing basis, the gospel reminds us that we are all sinners in need of a saviour.
Our lives should point others to this truth – that our hope is in the work of Christ. By depending on Him, we can respond graciously, gently, wisely and courageously when things seem all wrong.
Secondly, the Lord has given us opportunities to use our skills and gifts to glorify him through the work that we do. Our work can have a positive impact on the people around us.
So, how do we live out our faith in the workplace in the face of different circumstances and expectations?
1. Don’t be afraid to ask
Ask when things aren’t clear or when you don’t know. Being an intern is the best opportunity to ask and learn because no one expects you to know.
Often, in our culture, people are afraid to ask because we don’t want to look stupid, and that is a stumbling block to learning.
In a workplace, no one is obliged to tell you how to do your work, so you need to figure out what you need to do your job. And that involves asking and clarifying.
When you are new to a job as an intern, aligning expectations is a process and is not instantaneous.
2. Create value for yourself
Much of the value of an internship depends on the intern and how much initiative he or she has.
If God has given you an opportunity to be in a workplace, then ask yourself what you want to gain from your time there and how you think you can contribute.
No matter how long or short a time, you can make it worthwhile. Bosses may not have this as an expectation, but interns that show initiative definitely stand out.
3. Rely on God for wise words
If you feel that something isn’t right, consider how you can respond and communicate with the parties involved rather than harbour bitterness and gossip. This is not an easy thing to do, but we need to rely on God for wise words that point others to the hope we have in Christ.
Learning how to deal with difficult situations at work is part of the process of growth and maturity of any individual.
Bosses would be looking not just at the quality of your work, but also your willingness to learn and ability to navigate the complexities of any workplace.
*The intern’s name has been changed for confidentiality. Additional reporting by Jewel Yu.
THINK + TALK
- Have you thought about the greater purpose of your internship?
- What can you initiate during your internship period?
- How can you take a step towards better communication with your colleagues or superiors?