National Interns Day: Recognizing the Shared Traits of Successful Interns and Executive Leaders

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July 27th is National Intern Day, and we are extremely happy to celebrate the current and former interns who have helped us build and scale Summit throughout the years. Interns bring a diverse set of experiences and perspectives that help us innovate and deliver quality offerings to our clients. We are fortunate to employ interns from the Organizational Science graduate program at UNC Charlotte, the Social-Organizational Psychology program at Teachers College of Columbia University, the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University and the Leadership Signature Program at Clemson University.

I was on a panel at the recent SIOP (Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology) Annual Conference providing advice about best practices for graduate students to obtain and excel in an internship. As a leader of many graduate interns throughout my career, I reflected on the types of characteristics I look for when hiring interns. And I realized that many of those key traits for early career professionals are the same ones that benefit executive leaders who have a decade or more of experience.

Below are some of the attributes that are top of mind for me when identifying intern candidates:

  • Ability to think critically and deeply. We want someone to be curious and inquisitive about the work they’re doing — not just take orders. By thinking critically and asking questions, interns can learn more deeply, which also helps us grow as a firm by challenging our assumptions about the way we do things.
  • Continuous improvement mindset. When in graduate school, one can easily get exhausted from processing a firehose of information. I find the best interns push through that experience and actively seek feedback on how they can grow as a professional. They understand that being a strong professional requires something beyond expertise in their domain. Being open to feedback from colleagues helps to improve ways of working and collaborating with others.
  • Client focus. Interns support both internal and external initiatives. Regardless of what they are working on at a given moment, keeping perspective on what would best serve our clients is a critical success factor. Taking that extra step beyond executing the task at hand to see how this will impact the client is highly beneficial for up-and-coming professionals.
  • Team-oriented approach. Focusing on personal success can be common among interns — they’re looking to stand out among the crowd. However, it can’t come at the expense of helping peers and other team members. Interns that have the perspective of “one team” are more valuable than interns who focus on their status and self-promotion.

Coincidentally, these exact same characteristics also reflect the attributes required of executives scaling a business. Possessing that same hunger and energy as an intern — wide-eyed, willing to learn and soaking up every experience — is also a key success factor for executives at growing companies. Being an intern or an executive at a growth company can each be uncomfortable experiences at times, as the pace can feel relentless, but you can’t learn much in your comfort zone. Ultimately, we want our interns to learn and grow — just like the senior leaders we assess and coach.

Meet our current interns below:

Mia Behrens, Research Analyst Intern – Mia is currently working toward her Master of Arts, Social-Organizational Psychology degree from Teachers College at Columbia University. There, she studies organizational dynamics on individual, group and system levels. Mia received her B.S. in Psychology and Theology from Fordham University in New York.

Vaishali Joshi, Research Analyst Intern – Vaishali is currently pursuing an MBA from Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management. She has completed a Bachelor’s in Architecture from NIT-Bhopal in India and a Master’s in Development Studies from Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands.

Becca Studer, Marketing Intern – Becca plans to graduate with a B.S. from Clemson University in May of 2024 with a double major in Marketing and Management and a minor in Spanish Studies. As an undergraduate student, she has held executive leadership roles in the Leadership Signature Program, Delta Sigma Pi (a co-ed professional business fraternity), Leading Women of Tomorrow, the Management Student Advisory Board and more.

Miguel Wilson, Research Analyst Intern – Miguel received a B.S. in Business Administration from American University and his M.A. in Sociology from UNC Charlotte. He is currently a third-year doctoral student at UNC Charlotte in Organizational Science.