Good internships provide exposure, experience and education, which teach lessons for life as well as for professional development. Through my research internship at Gartner’s Arlington, VA office, I’ve learned a lot about business writing, corporate structure, what I like in an internship—and lessons I can take back to my college campus and beyond. Here are some of my favorites.
1. Provide Two-Way Value
At Gartner, our members (otherwise known as clients) are sources of both insight and revenue. Researchers use interviews to glean what challenges executives face and how best to address them.
Although Gartner research relies on member experience, it ensures that members benefit from the process. During interviews, members can reflect on strategy, forge new connections or realign priorities (almost like corporate talk therapy). With best practice profiles, members promote internal and external brands. This reciprocity reframed my notion of mutual benefit.
Providing value even when asking for help is something also applicable to personal communication. When I asked a family friend who had lived in Rome where to explore when I visited the city, I learned her family was moving again—to Sofia, Bulgaria, a city that few Americans have visited but where, coincidentally, my college friend lived for four years. After thanking my family friend for her help, I connected her to my college friend, repaying the favor by responding in kind.
2. Iterate, Iterate, Iterate
Gartner emphasizes “agile” or “lean” development, a method from the tech and entrepreneurship worlds that emphasizes product adjustment based on consumer feedback. Share rough drafts early, the model says, to learn whether projects (whether iPhone apps, Gartner articles or college papers) align with what consumers (app users, Gartner members, college professors) want to see. Time to fix bugs or refine sentence structure comes later — ideas, audience and argument come first.
This approach shifted my work mindset. Throughout high school and into college, I would write drafts so carefully and deliberately that my first draft became the final product. Although typing and retyping sentences as I went produced excellent syntax and diction, my submissions sometimes drifted in structure or argument from instructor expectations. Now, I am more inclined to share a quickly written first draft to know whether my ideas are properly directed before I invest time in polishing prose.
Good thing, too: In just a few weeks, once my school’s fall term begins, I’ll be starting my thesis, a history project on women and travel in the middle ages. (Hard to find a topic more relevant to today’s world, I know.) With Gartner’s methodology, I’ll know to focus on ideas first and syntax later, so that my final manuscript is 100 pages of what readers (the whole handful of them) wish to see.
3. Adopt a Growth Mindset
Gartner’s emphasis on top-quality content means that everything from ideas to structure to word choice are pushed to the highest standards. Our feedback-driven culture means teammates critique each other’s work several times before publication. Key to this collaboration is to be motivated rather than demoralized by suggestions for improvement — in other words, to adopt a growth mindset.
Growth mindsets see aptitude as plastic. Feedback, I’ve learned, provides opportunity to improve both current projects and longtime skills. Considerate, constructive criticism, the kind I’ve seen at Gartner, facilitates forward momentum. Whether arguing for internal talent mobility or learning to climb with my school’s outdoors club, “growth mindset” is an idea I appreciate wholeheartedly.
What else I appreciate: The cafeteria’s sparkling water fountain, ice-cream-sandwich food truck brought on National Intern Day, and — most importantly — the friends I’ve made with interns and colleagues over these 10 weeks. Thanks, Gartner, for a great summer.
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