What I Learned by Delegating as an Intern

I am grateful that I currently work as an intern at a company that challenges me, treats me with respect and fully trusts in my ability to work on stimulating projects. To be in an environment that forces me to take risks and put my ideas out there everyday is both humbling and motivating, but I’m not going to lie: it is a LOT of work. Organizing for current and upcoming events, while responding to every email as quickly as possible, while trying to build connections with your supervisor and your fellow interns, while trying to work your hardest on other projects that could further the company and your skills outside of your assigned work projects, is a LOT of work. It is rewarding work, but still work. That being said, there comes a time in every intern’s life where they have to learn about the art of delegation.

Learning about delegation was a confusing process for me because I wondered…

A. As an intern, I am at the “lowest” position in the company. Everyone is my boss and I am there to learn, collaborate and do as much work as I can to make a difference and help the employees with their work process. Because this is the case, who would I possibly delegate to?

B. Everyone gets overwhelmed and needs to ask for help sometimes. However, how can I delegate without seeming lazy, unmotivated or incapable of completing my assigned tasks?

C. I have fellow interns, some in my department and some in others. What if interns don’t delegate at my company? Am I inferior because I want to delegate?

These questions stuck to me as I worked and I pondered them often, trying to figure out the correct way to delegate. So far, this is what I have come up with.

Who would I possibly delegate to?

  1. Often your supervisors will offer to help you. If you genuinely need the help, say yes!

I am one half marketing intern and that half has challenged me the most in my process. Luckily, I have a wonderful reporting supervisor who helps me as much as possible and answers every question that pops into my head (and that happens a LOT). My supervisor taught me the way to use a data reporting system and we came to a pattern that worked with our schedules and gave us each one half of the work. This was the same process that the previous interns used, and it was a process that felt fair and completely doable in addition to the other work assignments I was given. I would be lying if I said I didn’t go home, sit with my planner and try to figure out a way to take back some of the work that my supervisor was helping me with. Two hours later, I realized that there weren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that I wanted. And then I realized that that was okay! My supervisor offered to give me help, I needed it and I took it. It is better to say you can’t do it all rather than doing half your best on different assignments.

  1. Your fellow interns are your collaborators, your peers and your future friends!

That means you should feel free to draw on their expertise and delegate when possible. Let me give you an example. Let’s say that you are required to write a blog post by the end of the week. You finally find the time to do it, and now you have to edit it. Editing is not one of your strong suits, but your fellow intern is great at it. What is wrong with sending a respectful email and asking if they have the time and interest in editing your article? This creates a great relationship between you and your coworker, allows you to collaborate and allows you to learn something new.

How can I delegate without seeming unmotivated or incapable of completing my assigned tasks?

  1. THE GOLDEN RULE: Only delegate when you REALLY need help.

Delegation is a wonderful process that can lead to better workplace relationships and collaboration. However, if this process is not done with full authenticity and transparency, and is used as a means to slack off, this will not only build negativity within the office, it will breed distrust. Be transparent in your work and in your intentions with your peers and your supervisors. Building this trust will give you the ability to maintain great collaborative relationships and create a supportive network.

What if interns don’t delegate at my company? Am I inferior because I want to delegate?

  1. If your current staff isn’t open to a culture of delegating, then start small…

I understand that it is hard as an intern to feel that you have the capacity (or even the right) to change the type of culture that your organization has, but a lot can happen when you are the first to suggest a great idea! If your company allows it, maybe you could ask to create a presentation or some sort of project that talks about the benefits of delegation. Your company hired you because they were interested in hearing your thoughts and seeing how you utilize your talents to make change. What are you waiting for?

  1. Get over the weakness stigma

It is a problem in our culture that we praise people who claim they don’t need help. We love to worship solo heroes, the seemingly independent. This is not an ideal that encourages growth in a company. Interns, you will at some point need your supervisors, your fellow interns and even your supporters outside of work to support you. This does not make you weak in any way, or inferior. Instead knowing the limitations of what you alone can do, shows your self awareness and your genuine personality.

Interns, continue to do your work to the best of your ability, continue to utilize the support system created by your supervisors and your fellow interns to help you grow and remember the power of delegating. It is something that will accompany you throughout the rest of your professional life. Happy interning!