Want to Get Ahead in Your Career? Speak Up!

In the first few days of my summer internship at Abt, my department VP told me the best advice he received when he first started working – to speak up. After our meeting, I immediately doodled a megaphone shouting “Speak Up!”, and posted it right next to my computer screen as a constant reminder. Reflecting on my time at Abt, I realized that this little piece of inspiration has far-reaching consequences.

When I started my internship, I had just returned from studying international relations in Geneva, Switzerland for a semester. My time abroad solidified a profound awareness that I am living during a crucial point in history where things, from technological innovations to political and economic stability, are rapidly changing. As a young person, I feel compelled to use this opportunity to positively influence the world and proactively contribute as much as I can to the betterment of people’s lives. I was thrilled to be interning in a mission-driven organization that aligns so clearly with my own values.

I Simply Needed to Get Over It

However, shyness and fear can hamper genuine aspirations. In my role with Abt’s Knowledge Management team, we are essentially librarians for thoughts.  As a new intern in an organization, it sometimes felt daunting to offer up my opinions to colleagues. I lacked the experience they all had and worried that my contributions would be redundant and my questions tedious. I quickly realized that I simply needed to get over it – get over the anxiety of going out on a limb. I learned that the point of asking for more information and suggesting ideas inherently expresses interest in the task at hand. Being part of a wonderful team that is incredibly supportive hastened this realization.

Falling in love with your organization and the work you do makes all the difference between eager engagement and apathy. I had an amazing supervisor who encouraged me to share my thoughts, precisely because I am an intern. She ingeniously told me that if I was hesitant to give feedback, I should present it within the context of being an enthusiastic intern who is taking full advantage of contributing my opinion. With such a supportive team, I flourished with the confidence to actively contribute. In turn, my ideas have been taken seriously and factored into the work my team is doing. It means so much to be part of a company that takes an intern’s thoughts seriously; it has shown me that the company’s culture is inclusive and ready to adapt – truly change agile.

I learned that there is a fine line between being receptive as a new member of a team – by listening and learning first in order to give constructive feedback – versus sitting quietly because of shyness. Like many things in life, it’s about striking a balance. I’m sure this is just one of the many lessons I will learn as I continue to work after my senior year. It can be intimidating as a young person to try and make a positive change. However, if you have the courage to find your voice – and use that megaphone to speak up – you can make a difference.
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