Have a “Ball”: The Power of Embracing the Bold & Brave in Your Internship
A very wise woman once said to an audience full of her adoring fans, “I’m not funny. What I am is brave.”
That was none other than comedian Lucille Ball, star of the self-produced sitcom I Love Lucy. She collected many accolades throughout her life, including four Primetime Emmy Awards and 13 Emmy nominations. Ms. Ball would often attribute her success in show business not to her talent for comedy, but her ability to position herself in situations that tested her bravery and helped her move forward in her career despite the odds.
Lucille Ball was far more than the quirky character that has graced the small screen for decades. In 1962, she was the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions, and produced many popular television series such as Mission: Impossible and Star Trek in her addition to her work on several popular sitcoms. She exhibited bravery in every aspect of her work — often cited for standing up to the rampant sexism that permeated the sets of Hollywood in the mid-1900s.
So, what can be learned from Ms. Ball’s bravery that could be applied by young professionals in an internship setting? Here are three bold and brave tips modeled off of her actions to get you started:
- Demand the opportunity to do more …respectfully.
Do you think Lucille Ball waited around for the good projects to come to her? NO WAY! She created a show that was all her own and did that by capitalizing on her strengths in comedy and creativity. Come into your internship ready to present to your manager three strengths and three areas you would like to learn. Tell them you would like to build on these strengths throughout your time at the company as well as learn new areas of the industry to add to your portfolio.
Give your manager examples of stellar work you’ve done in the past and some actionable plans for what you could do for the company and place yourself in positions that will give you new opportunities. For example, if your manager asks you to schedule a meeting, ask if you can attend and facilitate one of the discussion topics. Your manager will appreciate the initiative and that you’ve already done some of the grunt-work.
- Ask the person you want to learn most from to lunch. Don’t be afraid, they have to eat too!
There is an incorrect assumption in many workplaces that people who are higher up in a company are not interested in mentoring or spending time with new/young employees. Perhaps at some workplaces this is true, but at every job I’ve had I have found this to be absolutely false.
When I first started as an intern at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland I decided I wanted to get to know the senior vice president of my area, so I invited her to lunch. She responded with enthusiasm saying that she was impressed with my initiative, and I had the opportunity to spend an hour with an executive one-on-one.
Lucille Ball schmoozed with the best and brightest of Hollywood, but also saw value in mentoring young talent. Trailblazing actress and comedian Carol Burnett has often cited Ms. Ball as one of her biggest mentors, inspirations, and friends. Just because people are successful in their field doesn’t mean they don’t have time to chat over a cup of coffee. Don’t be afraid to ask, the worst they can say is “no.”
- If credit isn’t given where credit is due, ask for it! Interns should be recognized for their work, too.
Lucille Ball faced a great deal of adversity and gender discrimination in her career as a star actress and producer. There were several accounts of her fighting to get her name put on her projects as a producer merely because she was a woman. This is a rather extreme case of credit not given where credit was due, but the lesson is not lost.
One example of asking for credit is if your manager thanks you for your work and states their intention to submit it in an industry competition. Ask that your name be included to ensure that you are specifically acknowledged. This can be done in a tactful, yet firm way and you will more than likely gain respect from your boss and coworkers.
Wherever your internship experience leads, remember another wise quip from Lucille Ball: “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than the things I haven’t done.”
Don’t be afraid to take a chance and put yourself out there. Be brave in your actions, bold in your work, and respectful in all situations.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Federal Reserve System.