When students become the teachers

Surrounded by UNC, Duke and NC State, Koroberi is in a great spot to recruit the best of the best college interns. While they often think they’re here to learn from us, we often learn a lot from the interns, too. Speaking of which, one of our interns, Elizabeth Raby, taught us some things about balancing demands in the classroom and the office.

Variety is key. Most students (and employees, if we’re being totally honest) would admit that they struggle focusing on the same thing for a long period. But one of the beauties of being in college is the abundance of unique courses and tracks of study that are available. Elizabeth, for example, is pursuing a major in public relations, a minor in social entrepreneurship and another minor in history. “My learning is dynamic and I am often exposed to topics in some classes that end up benefiting me in others,” she explains. Similarly, as employees from different departments collaborate, the variety of their experiences come together to not only produce better work, but develop more well-rounded employees.

Perfection is overrated. “As much as I would love to have straight As every semester,” she says, “I have come to terms with the fact that there are much more significant things about my college experience than grade point average, and I would much rather walk out of class on the last day feeling like I learned something and acquired beneficial skills than waste time stressing about my GPA.” This notion can be translated into post-graduate life as well - while it is certainly important to work hard and strive for excellence, the world does not end when the results are not as high as anticipated. Sometimes perfectionism is a hindrance, as it can cause poor time management.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is a humbling thing to admit to someone else that you need his or her help, but especially at the beginning of an internship or job there is simply no way around it. Making mistakes and asking for assistance is an integral part of learning, and it is the best way to grow. It also pays to get this done upfront – asking questions to fully understand an assignment offers a much more efficient process in the long run.

The importance of self-discipline. There are a lot of different managerial styles you’ll find during your career. Every person and organization has their own preferences. Our style tends to lean towards a more hands-off approach that favors independent workers, but includes establishing clear expectations and consistent feedback. “I like being left to my own devices to really hone in and concentrate on my work. I think I work best in this type of laid back atmosphere,” says Elizabeth. “It makes you accountable for your work and schedule, which I like.”

Time management. Whether it is scrambling to turn in an assignment on time for a class or staying late at the office to finish up a project, most people know the feeling of being pressed for time. But there are ways to train oneself to improve in this area and reduce the stress that results from poor time management.

“Over the course of my last two years in college and my first month at Koroberi, I have gradually learned how to manage my time more efficiently,” says Elizabeth. “Sometimes that means silencing my phone so I can retain my focus on the tasks in front of me, and sometimes that means taking a break to re-center my mind on what I need to get done.”

A positive attitude is essential. “I can honestly say that I enjoy my classes, and I love my internship here at Koroberi. But that doesn’t mean that there will never be those days when I feel a little overwhelmed, bored or worn out,” says Elizabeth. These are the days when optimism becomes your best friend. Without a positive outlook, managing the stresses that come with juggling school and work simultaneously would be near impossible. On the other hand, optimism brings with it a renewed sense of energy and purpose, both in the classroom and at the workplace.

This kind of optimism is what gives you the energy to throw your own creative flare into what you do. Why not try to get to know the other students in class or send funny gifs to coworkers over Slack? As American entrepreneur and businessman J. Willard Marriott once said, “It’s the little things that make the big things possible.”

We’re fortunate to be surrounded by amazing schools that offer a great pool for interns. And we don’t take it for granted – internships are a symbiotic relationship. We may offer the real-world experience that most college students need to jumpstart their careers, but they offer us a fresh perspective and solid work – invaluable contributions for crammed agency schedules.