You don’t have to get coffee

We are in the middle of my second favorite season at work-college recruiting! A successful college recruiting season is vital to my most favorite season at work-summer, for our summer intern program. We have a stellar intern program for technical talent and it’s insanely tough to get into. One of the selling points that we beat to death comes down to “you don’t have to get coffee.” What we really mean is our interns don’t get handed petty tasks to keep them busy for 10-12 weeks and shadow technical subject matter experts. Instead they get handed real work to perform right along side our SMEs. There is obviously economical value in our interns applying the skills they have acquired to our backlog, but is there economical value in having them get coffee?

coffee run

I don’t mean that our technical interns should run out every morning to pick up the gangs coffee order for morning SCRUM, but maybe other lower level tasks. I recently read what Daniela Pierre Bravo had to say about being an intern for Mika Brzezinski on Morning Joe and she starts off with the first time she met Mika. Her first question and first order had to do with fetching coffee. I laughed this off as soon as I read it, because again I sell “You don’t have to get coffee.” The story focused on why getting her coffee right was so important and why it helped Daniela be successful in other things. It basically boiled down to this (which I think is brilliant):

“Whatever industry you enter, your first few roles will be to support others. In order to do that, it is imperative to take cues about the needs and preferences of others, because at the end of the day, if you are there in an entry level position, whatever the industry is, you are there to make the jobs of those above you easier. That is what gives you added value and helps you excel at your role.”

I realize we are still talking about coffee, but she uses this example to illustrate how she recognized the importance of each task assigned. Nothing was assigned for fun, everything had a purpose. I think this is difficult for educated entry level folks to grasp. We think when we go from high school to college we are working hard in a different way to skip some of these entry level tasks that aren’t as fun or are harder to attach to the bigger picture. A lot of times when a task doesn’t make us feel good we tend to devalue that task and find a way to not do it. Daniela flips us a nice reminder that we all have to make our way and that understanding the little tasks will lead to us being entrusted with bigger tasks.

Now I’m going to switch to more general terms. What expectations are you allowing your entry level people to set for your organization? College isn’t replacing entry-level experience, it’s preparing students for entry-level positions in a more competitive hiring market. It’s bringing new hires in  your door that have a foundation of knowledge. That’s a good thing, but they have to do some lower level work to appreciate the bigger picture. I’ve never seen an employee that didn’t work hard at the smaller lower level tasks excel in a higher level position. I’m sure it’s happened, but I’m also sure it’s not the norm. Do your employees a favor, develop them. If you don’t expect them to do tasks that need to be done just because they don’t want to do them, you are not setting them up for success anywhere else. And those employees, like Daniela, who just get it- duplicate them. Whatever you do, don’t punish those employees by giving them work that their peers don’t want to do and then rate them the same come performance review time.

Get your own coffee? 

Before I close this one out I want to clarify a very important reason our interns don’t have to get coffee is because we all get our own coffee. One of my favorite stories I heard an engineer tell (with lots of enthusiasm) on a college recruiting trip to a student was how he gets his coffee from the same coffee pot that one of the co-founders of our company gets his from and how much he appreciates that kind of access to the top technical talent we have on staff!

 

 

Because I was an #intern … a guest post

There are two things that I stress to everyone wanting to get a job after graduation (especially in the HR field): Networking and Internships. These days “entry level” requires hands-on experience which you can only get by working in the office. Not only that, but internships provide you an opportunity to test the waters and see if you even want to work in that field!

In my case, I had the unfortunate happenstance to be going to school out of state and was unable to land an internship until the summer following my graduation. In all my time studying Human Resources I thought I wanted to specialize in Benefits and Compensation, so when I started my internship I requested projects relating to that area. It was not long before I realized that, while I was good at the analyzing it was NOT what I wanted to do 40hrs/wk until retirement! Luckily for me, the needs at the company changed and I was switched over to staffing: something I had never considered as an option for me.

All of my work experience prior to this internship involved working the phones, so it was no stretch for me to pick up the phone and start cold calling possible candidates to screen them for positions. To my surprise, I fell in love with staffing.  From writing job descriptions, to sourcing, to speaking with candidates I seemed to pick it up quite naturally. It was the fit that I was looking for in a job. I was able to see the textbook knowledge I had put into practice and I learned to use tools that the school did not teach me about (ATS and HRIS, anyone?). Don’t get me wrong, staffing can be quite stressful at times, but I work well under pressure and found it much more exciting than benefits.

The company I interned with must have been happy with my performance, because at the end of my internship I was hired on part-time and later promoted to full time. It was a wonderful experience because I was able to hire interns of my own to share my knowledge with them. While I have since changed companies, I owe a lot to the company who hired me as an intern. It offered me invaluable experience and provided a way to get my foot in the door. While the internship was unpaid, it more than paid for itself with experience that I would not have gotten otherwise.

Intern

 

Bio:

Melanie has a Bachelor’s in Human Resources from the University of Alabama in Huntsville where she served as President and Treasurer for the student chapter of SHRM. She has been working in a staffing-related role since May 2012 and is active in the local SHRM community. She spends a lot of her time volunteering and has an HR blog (http://welcome2hr.wordpress.com/) written from the viewpoint of an entry level HR professional. She is passionate about mentoring HR students and continues to help with the UAH-SHRM chapter.