5 Lessons Every Intern Can Learn from the Olympics

Earlier this summer, I was glued to my TV – watching nearly every Olympic event (yes, even all the track and swimming). From the Opening Ceremony (somebody give Gisele a medal!) to the emotional moments found in every Games, I was hooked. As I watched, I couldn’t help but notice valuable life lessons. Each athlete represented a different sport, background, and country – but they shared the same title: Olympian. Individuals starting out in an organization may be seen that way as well, representing various Universities, majors, and experiences – but they also share a title: Intern. Here are 5 moments from the 31st Olympiad that I’m confident every intern can benefit from:

  1. blog-1You will not always win. Take Missy Franklin, for example. Missy was known as “Missy the Missile” during the London games. She won several gold medals, at the end of the year, was even named World Swimmer of the Year. In the most recent Rio Olympics, however, Missy failed to medal in an individual event. During interviews, was she was visibly disappointed – but also said she wasn’t done with swimming. Missy remains a fantastic swimmer, with great charisma and noticeable strength. The same can be said for interns – you will make mistakes. You will not win every day. What remains important, however, is how you work through those difficult days and remain focused on the good that is to come.
  2. blog-2Treat those around you with kindness. The Olympics are the epitome of competition; in this venue, the best of the best gather together for a common goal. Many are remembered for breaking records – but others are remembered even more fondly for their kind treatment of their peers. Take Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand and Abbey D’Agostino of the United States; during a 5,000-meter race, both women took a fall and could have easily left the other behind. Instead, both took the time to help the other rise to their feet and continue the race. As an intern, it can be easy to leave others behind to fulfill one’s own goal. That said – I recommend interns strive to be both competent and kind. That may mean helping a fellow intern with a project, agreeing to switch shifts with another intern, or providing a supportive voice when needed. After all, I don’t remember who won this 5,000-meter heat – but the story of Nikki and Abbey is one I will not soon forget.
  3. blog-3Celebrate your victories. One of my favorite moments from the Rio Olympics was the one featured above; when Diego Hypolito and Arthur Mariano of Brazil celebrated winning both the silver and bronze medals. Their joy was absolutely contagious (I wasn’t crying, it was allergies). Even as an intern – it is absolutely okay to celebrate your victories when appropriate. I’ve worked with many students who fail to even discuss their successes for fear that it will make others around them feel small. Quality friends and colleagues will celebrate with you. At the same time, be sure to celebrate victories only when appropriate and for a reasonable amount of time – perhaps that means going to dinner with non-work friends, a quick text to a family member, or an email to a mentor. Celebrate when hard work pays off – but remember to do so appropriately and thoughtfully (see #2 regarding kindness in the workplace).
  4. blog-4Don’t lie. Just about any individual with access to cable or internet over the last month has become aware of the Ryan Lochte situation. In short, Lochte and three fellow teammates reportedly lied about being robbed at gunpoint in Rio. This was especially noteworthy, as Rio officials and Cariocas (the people of Rio) seemingly worked their hardest to create a joyful and safe atmosphere for athletes and spectators. Lochte says he “over-exaggerated” the situation – but the lesson here is fairly clear. Try to avoid lying or exaggerating a situation at all costs; little good can come of it. Think of an internship as the world’s longest job interview. You’ll want to come across as trustworthy and dependable at all times.
  5. blog-5Seek good coaching. Just about every noteworthy moment at the Rio Olympics included a coach, a parent, a spouse, or a friend – athletes did not celebrate alone. These individuals provided coaching, mentoring, and support as athletes worked to obtain once-in-a-lifetime goals. The same can be true for interns. That is, seek out support, help, and guidance. The Center for Career Development is here to provide just that. From help with applying for positions, interviewing, and getting ready for the first day of work, career consultants are available to help UConn students from any major or academic program.

One wouldn’t expect Simone Biles or Katie Ledecky to train on their own – why shouldn’t you feel the same about your own path?

By Ana Clara Blesso
Ana Clara Blesso Associate Director, Career Coaching & Experiential Learning Ana Clara Blesso