Unbearably funny and cringe-worthy for anyone who’s put in serious office time at a large corporation, WIA was an excellent reminder of what makes for – and what definitely doesn’t make for – an impressive contribution at work.
Livy Watson, intern-turned freelancer from Eyes Wide Opened, shares some handy Do’s and Don’ts…
1. Don’t overuse jargon and clichés. It makes you sound vacuous and obscures what you’re actually trying to say. Call a spade a spade and avoid using snazzy-sounding phrases you’ve heard around the office, like the commissioning editor’s ‘let’s get it across the line’, to which the producer replies (reasonably) ‘across what line?’ : you’ll gain far more respect if you can express yourself simply and clearly.
2. Don’t impose your fresh new perspective on everyone. There’s definitely value in the fact that you’re young, enthusiastic and have an outsider’s perspective, but don’t expect people to fall over themselves to hear your views. Note down your ideas and keep them on the back burner until you’ve got a better idea of how things work. Also, learn from Siobhan’s terrifying re-branding mission and resist the temptation to make big changes early on simply to make an impact.
3. Do sweat the small stuff. If you are trying to pitch a new idea to your colleagues, pay attention to the little details and get all your facts straight – unlike Siobhan, who insists on saying ‘British Broadcasting Company’. Small inaccuracies will undermine your wider strengths.
4. Do participate meaningfully in meetings. Find and walk the fine line between being a silent appreciative listener and chipping in with inane comments for the sake of contributing (à la Simon: ”Brilliant, brilliant. Oh yes, very strong…”).
5. Don’t get too clever with menial tasks. If you’re given a mind-numbing task like envelope-stuffing, do it efficiently and uncomplainingly. No matter how bored you are, resist overcomplicating it and trying out new systems unless you’re very confident they’ll work – you’ll probably end up creating more work for yourself, like the hapless intern, Will.
6. Do make sure you’re always clear on your brief…particularly if you’re taking on a public-facing task that will reflect badly on the organisation if you screw it up (like being interviewed live on Woman’s Hour!). Make sure you’re sure about your objectives and if the task/project involves thinking or speaking on the spot, prepare thoroughly: set aside time to plan responses to potentially awkward questions. Getting a clear brief so you don’t damage the organisation’s image is also very important if you’re asked to manage their social media accounts.
7. Do learn from the many, many mistakes of well-meaning Will. When on an internship…
– Be pro-active. If you don’t have enough to do, gently let people know that you’re available if they need any help but show some initiative and get immersed in your own tasks and projects – do some research or gen up on relevant news online
– Really listen. Don’t be so busy trying to look and sound intelligent and engaged that you forget to actually listen to instructions and information. Will means well and does a good imitation of a can-do attitude but doesn’t take anything in: his catch phrase ‘Yeah, sure! Say again?’ speaks volumes (and his permanent headphones are an obvious no-no)
– Take the coffee-run seriously and get the orders right but try not to look like you find it a mammoth task or a huge feat of memory (even if it feels like it!)
– Watch your language: try to eliminate any teenage words or phrases. This means not using ‘like’, ‘yeah, cool’ and ‘no worries’ incessantly like Will, and not phrasing every other sentence as though it’s a question
– Don’t act like a fan-girl/boy. It’s good to show respect for your superiors and be aware that you have a lot to learn, but don’t make your idolisation too obvious or puppy-like.
– Think big and long(ish)-term. Take each day as it comes and don’t jump the gun or assume it’s your right to be offered full-time work after your internship, but if you’d like to work in this place, or something like it, then take action, even if it’s just to get a few people’s email addresses or to arrange coffee. As actor Hugh Skinner, says of his own character (Will): “He thinks the BBC’s really, really cool but I don’t think he’s thought much past the next 10 minutes, let alone the next week.”
8. Do have some self-belief – don’t do yourself down. Dan the script-writer goes in expecting to fail and doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in his first draft. Don’t undersell yourself in meetings or pitches – have some confidence in what you’re offering.
9. Do be straight if there’s been a mix-up – people might be cross initially but ultimately they’ll respect your honesty. And if you try to cover it up and pretend the situation is something else (think Carol Vorderman mix-up and Will’s letter-stuffing fail) it’ll probably all blow up in your face
10. Do make an effort to understand what and why you’re contributing. Think about how the work you and your immediate team are doing helps the wider organisation achieve its objectives.
Eyes Wide Opened’s next 2-day career-coaching course runs on 16 / 17 May in central London. Visit www.ewopened.com to apply.