5 Things I Learned from Interning at Nike

I expected to be intimidated on my first day of work. Instead I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the college feel of the campus and the amount of sports' history showcased within 213 acres of Beaverton, Oregon. Overwhelmed by the friendliness of the people who would be my coworkers for the summer. And especially overwhelmed by how energetic I still was after my first 9 hour work day.

Over the next three months, I was welcomed into an amazing team who mentored me through a series of projects and taught me invaluable lessons about the 'real world'. Here are the top 5 takeaways from my internship.

Never Eat Alone

I am by no means a master of small talk. In a group, I smile and nod along and one on one I have a habit of talking…a lot. This summer I learned to listen. 99.9% of the people around me had more corporate experience and many of them were open to having informational interviews or more informal chats during lunch. There were definitely times where lunches were rescheduled 4-5 times because of unexpected conflicts, business trips and double bookings. But being politely persistent and flexible helped me to make new connections and network myself beyond the team I worked with.

Ask for Feedback

Oh if only I'd started this from day one. The first two weeks of my internship, I dove into a project that would culminate in teaching a class. I made my project plan, thoroughly researched my topic, and started creating lesson plans. During the third week, I sat down for my second scheduled meeting with my project mentor. She asked plenty of questions and made suggestions and I went to work. However, it quickly became apparent that her suggestions would involve more than tweaking my presentation. I would have to restart it. She had two years of knowledge of how Nike operated and what kind of knowledge employees needed. Taking my mentors up on their offers for advice or being more forward about asking for feedback would have saved me a lot of wasted hours. The rest of my internship I was not shy about asking for feedback and happy to receive it.

Storytelling

If you're a natural storyteller, you might have found that you're the center of attention at a party. Everyone loves a good story. Well, being a good storyteller will help you as much in your professional life as it does your social life. For Nike in particular, storytelling plays a key role in the company's past and present- ever heard the story of the waffle iron? When surrounded by a collaborative group, storytelling can lead to creative problem solving, innovative ideas, and an effective work environment. As an intern, it proved most helpful for networking. Having a few good stories to tell (minus any time that involved Fresher's week, Raisin or May Dip) is helpful to building a network. It's equally important to be aware that everyone around you has some interesting stories to tell. Which brings me to my favorite Nike Maxim…

Be A Sponge

The most important thing I learned from my internship was to 'Be a Sponge'. Like I said, everyone has a story and taking the time to listen to them will have huge benefits to you in the future. In fact the three items listed above this all came as a result to listening to other people’s experiences and learning from them. Take this attitude to work every day and I guarantee the days will fly by. 

Shoes Count

Ok, this probably wouldn’t come up in a purely professional 'Top 5 Takeaways from my Internship' article but I'd add it to my list of going from a college to corporate wardrobe. Having never worked in a corporate environment before, I only had vague ideas of what to expect for a dress code. The first day I was probably overdressed but thankfully an awards ceremony brought most people to work dressed for brunch (mimosas included). Over the next 90 days, I showed off my favorite printed dresses that gather dust in Scotland, took time to piece together outfits complete with accessories (note: once the temperature falls below 10C this never happens) and at least braided my hair. Despite my effort to look professional every day, I overlooked one really obvious component: Shoes. My most complimented outfit from the summer consisted of my worn out black jeans, a crisp but plain black shirt and leopard print Nike dunks. Now, I should have assumed that Nikes would get the most attention from the get-go but don't worry I caught on quickly. My shoe collection just about quadrupled by the end of August.

 

Being surrounded by people who love what they do and appreciate where they work is infectious. It took a lot of coaxing to get me back on the plane to Scotland because I felt ready to jump into the corporate world and never look back. Don't get me wrong, I love being a student and I'm sure in 20 years I'll be laughing at myself for being so keen to go into the real world. But, right now, nothing beats Summer 2013!

 

Images courtesy of Nike, Inc., Investopedia, and Bloomberg Business Week. Compiled and edited by Kerri Pandjaitan.

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