By: Rob Cooper
There have been a few times in my life when I’ve felt like a hero. When I was 12, my younger brother fell into a pool, and I was there to canoodle him out of the water with one hand. I also carry a somewhat legendary status among my family, as I was the only one capable of finding Mom’s contact lens whenever it popped out. That says a lot when you lived in a house with shag, disco-green carpeting that literally consumed food when it hit the floor.
Okay, so maybe my definition of hero varies from others, but each of us enjoy those moments where people rely on us, and we authenticate that trust by performing deeds that astound and amaze. It doesn’t matter if these tasks are small, or mundane, or requires the mental capacity of my oh-so-adorable baby cousins; when you are given a small task and you meet or exceed expectations, the resulting admiration is nothing short of heroic.
That’s why interns need capes, preferably those that won’t get caught in the copier.
As a newly-minted intern given the extraordinary opportunity to work under the tutelage of an amazing paralegal (you might know her; she runs a blog, spends her weekends riding unicorns and was previously know as She-Ra, Princess of Power), I’ve experienced a number of important things, most important is this; if you’re not afraid to take on those annoying office gremlins, get your hands dirty with window cleaner and black toner, or befriend The Dark Cloud (a/k/a Keeper of the Misery) in order to make Monday go a little smoother, then you deserve a gold star and a cupcake. More importantly, people will notice, and rely on you for professional support.
There are a number of ways interns can go from “That Kid who Drinks all our Coffee” to “Captain Awesome Pants, Office Hero who Still Drinks all our Coffee, but at Least He Brews a Fresh Pot.” For all my fellow Super Interns out there, here are a few bits of advice that I’ve gathered from my adventures with She-Ra:
Be Eager: There’s nothing worse than an intern who is simply reactive to tasks. Sure, we’re in a new industry, or at the very least, a new environment. But that shouldn’t stop you from taking a moment to evaluate office dynamics. Does mail usually pile up by Wednesday? Put on your thigh-high postman shorts and sort that mountain of 90 percent spam mail! Perhaps you’ve isolated the culprit who fails to refill the printer after printing off a 400-page medical record. You now have the chance to become the unsung hero responsible for keeping it stocked. Whatever the task may be, be proactive. Anticipate the needs of the office; a fresh set of eyes can quickly identify those slightly aggravating nuances in the office, especially when decrypting those deadly Post-Its. Be the eager sidekick that’s always got the super hero’s back, and you’ll go far.
Avoid the bureaucracy: We may not know the inner workings of office politics that come along with any job, no matter how large or small. In a way, our intern position allows us to be insulated from it, but not completely immune. The dreaded Office Sh*t Stirrer is an ever-present menace, and threatens both the integrity of office cohesion and your position if you aren’t careful. Bottom line, avoid the craptastic office drama; you might feel like you’re in with the cool kids if someone drops you a few juicy tidbits about Marge and her hatred towards one of the partners, but this isn’t high school. Unless of course, it’s Glee high school; randomly breaking out into song is completely acceptable and should be rewarded with cake and ice cream.
Wrangle the Office Logistics Bear: Coffee filters, staples that actually fit into the brand new staplers the office received, transparent envelopes and postage should never, ever, ever be a concern or an aggravation for office staff if they have Super Intern ready to assist. Sure, there may be someone in the office who takes care of supplies, but here’s a newsflash; it’s often the last thing on that person’s mind, and he or she probably has more important things to do. Interns have an amazing opportunity to be the dynamic sidekick for office logistics, and being able to anticipate and follow through on supply needs makes you infinitely more appreciated.
Computers are magic, and you’re the magician: Change can be tough, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, change almost always manifests first in technology. Software updates, e-filing, encrypted .PDF’s that prevent me from printing…. oh come on, really? OH MY GOD WHY CAN’T I PRINT THIS?!?!?!
Ahem. As you can see, computers can make or break your productivity hot streak, and interns are often ahead of their office subordinates when it comes to the latest technological changes. I am by no means suggesting that interns should troubleshoot every computer glitch; you’re an intern, not IT support. However, I recently found a workaround regarding those crappy encrypted .PDF’s (hint hint, load it into Google Drive and print away!). I simply took a few minutes to ask the internet, and off I was to save the day. I quickly became the Employee of the Day for solving this small, yet annoying problem. This reinforces my previous point about being eager; identifying an office gripe and taking a few minutes to research and apply a solution may be as easy as flipping a switch, but in doing so, you’ve established yourself as a team player. An intern who values the work of others by supporting them through both the good and bad becomes so much more than just a helper; they become an asset.
At the end of the day, I may not be at She-Ra’s side, battling the forces of evil and saving the universe before the 5:30 rush hour, but I’m behind her every step of the way, making sure she has every resource available to be successful. As an intern, we should not expect to be showered with adulation for making sure papers are carefully tucked away in their redwell homes or that we just spent eight hours creating trial binders. However, let it be known that our contributions make a huge impact on the success of our mentors and coworkers. We may not have the years of experience to put on the cowl and be Batman yet, but playing the part of Robin still makes us heroes, and part of a Dynamic Duo that others will recognize, envy and respect. In the end, Robin ended up going solo and became one heck of a super hero, and so can you! Just don’t expect a cape, unless it’s Casual Friday.
Rob Cooper is an intern at Yosha Cook Shartzer & Tisch in Indianapolis, Indiana, where he [valiantly] assists the TPS Founder with all of the ins and outs of law firm life. He is a student at Marian University working toward his paralegal degree, and an award-winning photo journalist. He was formerly a sergeant in the Indiana National Guard, prior to transitioning into the legal field.
Wishing you a wildly fabulous week, TPS readers! Now go charge into your work week and make the magic happen. We’ll see you soon.