Editor’s Note: Today’s post is written by former Hanapin intern, Wyatt Wells. Wyatt discusses his internship experiences with Hanapin.
It was the best of internships, it was the worst of internships—wait, scratch that…Truthfully, each of my two experiences as an intern at Hanapin offered uniquely valuable opportunities to hone new skills and explore my career interests. Humor me for a moment and set aside your instinctive repulsion to the mention of internships.
We tend to think negatively of internships because they’re often portrayed as a ploy for greedy corporations to dump mindless grunt work onto oblivious kids—without pay! As the twilight of my 5-year intern career creeps into the dawn of entry-level employment, I look back at the hundreds of unpaid hours I spent doing mindless grunt work through nostalgic eyes. You see, there is inherent value in this type of work. I gained perspective on how truly miserable I can be in a job my manager doesn’t appreciate, doing work that doesn’t test my limits and enhance my abilities.
In spite of these essential career insights, I had no expectation of landing a job that met these criteria until I’d earned enough experience to deserve to be picky about where I work. My experience at Hanapin challenged this expectation. This summer I learned that, of the countless corporations that claim to value their employees, there exists at least one company that takes a sincere and proactive approach to fulfilling its claim. What’s more, this claim isn’t exclusive to full-time staff. Employees and leaders at Hanapin consider even lowly interns as equal members of the Hana-family, commanding the same level of respect deserved by all.
Whether it was the freedom to shadow colleagues in roles I was curious to explore, the trust to complete projects based on broad instructions without micro-management, or the devotion my colleagues at Hanapin demonstrated to simulate realistic client account management scenarios, throughout the summer, I had the glaring impression that intern career-development was the secret core of Hanapin’s business model. It was as if every employee was convinced that it was in their best interest to make sure I was given enough opportunities to learn and grow.
The examples I listed only paint a sliver of the whole picture—I didn’t mention the:
- Dedicated intern professional development
- Company-wide weekly meetings and monthly training sessions
- Opportunities to participate in company-wide meetings
- Opportunity to sit in on President Jeff Allen’s open invitation each Friday morning to chat about anything and everything
Not only did I feel like I wasn’t being treated like an intern, I felt as though I was being courted like a shareholder Hanapin wanted to impress. And impress me, they did. So much that I leaped at an offer to return in the fall.
Between wrapping up my final semester and grinding to get my startup off the ground, I had no shortage of opportunities to keep my mind occupied and continue to build my skillset this fall. Yet, on the advice of everyone kind enough to listen to me rant and rave about my summer internship (nice people like you!), I squeezed a second Hanapin internship into an unreasonably inundated fall schedule anyway.
Things were a little different this time. I felt less like a royal guest at Hanapin and more like a full-time employee—a full-time employee with 24/7 access to all the same amenities offered to royalty. My role in the fall was far less exploratory, but I’d already discovered which tasks I perform well and enjoyed doing during the summer. I didn’t want further exploration. I wanted to experience working in an established role.
And that’s exactly the experience I received. This fall I was treated like a Junior P.A.—not quite a full-time Production Associate who provides dedicated account support, but a time-saving resource who can offer help on a limited range of tasks. My colleagues were familiar with the extent of my capabilities, so they delegated certain projects to me whenever help was needed. I got a chance to learn how the skills I’d generated this summer could be put to use on real client accounts.
It occurred to me over time that the secret business model I mentioned earlier—to devote all resources to intern development—might not be far from the truth. It seems the formula for success at Hanapin comes from a deliberate emphasis on employees. And it goes deeper than just job satisfaction. Hanapin has built a culture that’s responsive to employees’ emerging needs of all kinds.
The most important takeaway from my Hanapin experience is that I shouldn’t settle for anything less than a workplace that appreciates me as much as I appreciate it. Even though my career has only barely begun, I still deserve to love my job. Hanapin showed me that at great companies, employees are the most valuable assets.
Before signing off, I need to give a quick shout out to my stellar supervisor Jake “Juice” Brown. He’s one of many phenomenal people at Hanapin.