In sports, you hear contradictory things about rookies (young employees) all the time. That they’re great players because they put it all out there—they don’t know enough yet to feel the pressure, don’t realize how much they’re risking. They are out there having fun, living on the edge, and willing to try new things. Or, that rookies aren’t ready, that they don’t have the experience yet to really be assets to their teams. And the reality is, both can be true.
Taking on new people can be a real risk. But it’s also a great opportunity, for the team, as much as for the new player. This summer, we took that risk and hired an intern, and I’m here to tell you, it’s really working out.
In the beginning, we didn’t know what our new intern could do, but he had the desire, so we put him on the front lines to see what he was made of. Did he make mistakes? Of course. But everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made at least three mistakes just writing this paragraph, that’s why I have an editor. But in two months he’s landed us better opportunities than some salespeople we know can manage in two years. And that is not a joke.
How did we come to trust him enough to give our intern that much responsibility? It was a gradual process, but it was a process we wanted him to go through, so we gave him the opportunities he needed to prove himself. From his first interview with us, we were always throwing balls to him to see what he could handle and what he couldn’t. And he was always in the game. He always took the shot. Sometimes he missed, but he’d learn from that and try again and then he wouldn’t miss.
I don’t mean that he just did well because he kept trying. It’s important to hustle, no doubt—the more people you talk to, the more likely you are to connect—but it’s that willingness to try, the willingness to risk and to learn, that I want to emphasize. Not everybody has that. It’s hard to really put yourself out there when there’s a real chance you might fail, but he doesn’t know any better. He hasn’t had that experience of failure yet. Hopefully, by the time he does (and everybody fails sometimes), he’ll have built up enough confidence to get back in the game afterwards. In the meantime, we get the benefit of his enthusiasm and energy.
And there’s more.
He doesn’t have pre-conceived ideas about how things should go, so he’s open to learning. He doesn’t come in and tell us why social media doesn’t work in business, for example—and trust me, a lot of people do say that, despite the fact that we’ve built our marketing company through social media. A lot of people tell us what we’re doing is impossible, anyway, but he doesn’t. He just gets in there and learns to use the tools at our disposal. He’s wicked smart, able to think on his feet, and he has the hustle, the drive, the thirst for knowledge that we look for.
Are all interns and entry-level young employees going to be this good? No, probably not. But a lot of them are, not in spite of their youth and inexperience, but because of it.
If you expect someone new to the industry to function exactly like an experienced employee, you will often be disappointed—not always, some can do it, but a lot of them can’t. They’re not ready. They need the guidance of experienced players and they need opportunities to prove themselves, so they can earn the trust and responsibility they need to learn even more. But if you provide that, your rookie could be the strongest person on your team. That’s been the biggest thing our intern has shown us.
Oh, and this intern? He has a name. It’s John. And he is a Jets fan. He is a quadruplet. He’s a senior at Western Carolina. And he is a big part of our business. He is helping us grow our business. Unless something drastic happens, he will continue his internship with us through his senior year of college, and when he graduates in May, we expect to offer him a full-time job. Maybe he’ll end up working somewhere else—these things are hard to predict, and he’s going to have a lot of options. But whatever the future holds, for John or for us, for now, he is our rookie, winning games for us because he is not afraid of the moment.