Monday, October 26, 2009

Stepping up and stepping out

I've talked previously about how the economy may work in today's interns' favor. An important part of making the economy work for you is to step up in your office and become more useful by filling the gaps left by staff or other services that have been cut. Not only will you be able to make yourself useful (and remind your firm why they kept you through the layoffs), but you'll also have good skills to use once the economy improves, which will help you whether or not you stay at your current firm. Fortunately, you already have the skills to do some of these tasks, and you can learn the rest.

It seems as if many interns have a better grasp of graphics programs such as Photoshop and Illustrator. If you're among that group, then you're in a good spot. Let the managers in your office know how good you are with graphics, modeling, and/or animation software, and let them know how you can use it to help them. Recently in the firm at which I work, the interns in our office figured out that it was easier and better to import plans from Revit into Illustrator when creating nice graphics for marketing brochures and presentations. Back in the Bronze Age, I used to doctor the images with Pantone color infills directly in CAD, so this was a bit of a leap for my managers and me to accept from the interns working for us. However, after one of them showed me how to work with the images in Illustrator, I realized how easy it was indeed in the long run and advocated for it.

Technology is passing at least some of your managers by, and they may not realize that there is a faster and/or easier way to accomplish something in the office. Speak up, offer to fix the problem for them, and then fix it--doing so can make you indispensable and can ensure you a place on project teams. Another good idea may be to offer to teach your manager (or a group of managers) how to use whatever software you're using. The interns in our office have given some of the managers some basic training in how to use NavisWorks, a program that allows you to do a walk-through or a fly-through of a model from Revit or other software platforms. Sharing your knowledge and skills with your bosses not only makes them look good in front of a client, but it also helps them feel a little less behind the times and less old. Never underestimate the power of making people feel smart and hip.

But what about the stuff you might not know much about, like writing proposals or checking shop drawings or marking up specs? This is where your boss gets to return the smart-and-hip favor and bend the learning curve in your direction. Let your manager/boss know that you're interested in learning more about how your firm puts a project together--how can you help? Can they show you a little something to get you started? If not, is there someone else in the office who can help you get started reviewing these storefront shops or those specs? It's quite likely that someone will have the time to teach you a little about a new task, and at the very least your manager will be appreciative that you're interested in learning more. Asking for more and more interesting tasks to do in the office can help you be useful and earn you some valuable IDP credits when you approach it from the Jerry MacGuire "help me help you" angle.

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