Americans like to talk a lot. We just do.
With that in mind, I always find it puzzling when I find both myself and fellow interns maintaining a relatively quiet existence while at work. But why is this? It’s my fear that corporate hierarchies have become so ingrained in our psyches that we are afraid of our own voices. Why should I, the intern, voice my ideas to my superiors?
That said, let’s begin by eliminating the words “hierarchies” and “superiors” from this conversation. Instead, at the root of the issue here I think you’ll find that it comes down to two very different words—confidence and worthiness, or a lack thereof.
So, here are a few tips and guidelines to help you to start feeling comfortable speaking up at your internship. Why? Because you’re all smart and have things to say.
- (Sometimes False) Theory of Similar Attributes: I offer this one as a clarification to my previous post on How to Master the Art of Kitchen Talk. Just because you share the same favorite show or movie or band with someone you work with doesn’t necessarily make you his or her BFF. Especially when it comes to your supervisor, there’s a fine line between being friendly and trying to be his or her friend. Do bond over similar interests, but don’t become obsessive about them.
- (Sometimes False) Theory of Extraordinary Knowledge: In truth, your supervisor and coworkers most likely know more than you do about the given field in which you’re working. While reading daily industry publications and keeping up to date with the happenings of your field shows initiative and passion, refrain from spitting off facts any chance you get to simply impress your coworkers. Make sure the moment is right (i.e. during a meeting when a coworkers asks for your opinion), stay level-headed, and always remain inquisitive.
- LISTEN. This one speaks for itself.
- Afraid to pitch an idea right away? First, try running it by a supervisor or someone you’re close with to get feedback and, if necessary, revise the idea.
At this point, I hope you’re thinking what I was thinking while writing this post: Yeah. Great Jonathan, but all of this is easier said than done. And you’re right. In the moment, it’s very difficult to actually speak up and offer your ideas. Taking risks is hard. In the words of someone I interned with, “What if they don’t like my idea? Or what if I’m wrong?!” In response to these reservations, the only thing I have to say is that you will not get anywhere by staying inside your comfort zone.
Do your research, be prepared, and be confident. You’re worthy of attention. Now speak up!
Jonathan Hurwitz is a senior in the Film & TV Production program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. After transferring to Tisch two years ago from the University of Michigan, Jonathan has held more than six internships on feature films and TV shows, including last summer’s Just Wright featuring Queen Latifah and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He is currently an intern through Universal Pictures on the upcoming Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy movie Tower Heist. He writes about everything from happiness to Justin Bieber on his own blog and that Twitter thang.