In honor of National Intern Day on Thursday, July 27th, Macmillan Learning CEO Ken Michaels took an hour out of his day to talk to Macmillan interns across the country at one of the interns’ weekly Lunch & Learn meetings. The Lunch & Learn program has been ongoing throughout the summer, and gives participants the chance to meet with senior management to discuss their professional journeys and roles within Macmillan Learning. Thursday’s Lunch & Learn was held in the New York office, with interns from Boston, Austin, Los Altos, and Plymouth conferencing in via phone and WebEx.
For Ken’s Lunch & Learn, the main focus was on personal and career development. Quotable snippets of advice kept interns’ pens busy as Ken began by sharing his own journey, starting with his days delivering newspapers and moving forward to an overview of how his career has progressed since. Ken then opened the floor up to questions, jokingly offering to fill the time with anecdotes if no one spoke up.
Some of the questions asked included what a day in the life looks like, what’s currently on Ken’s reading list (he recommended The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt), and how to maintain a work/life balance. Michaels placed an emphasis on two major topics: Curiosity and improvement. He urged interns never to lose their sense of curiosity, to constantly dig into the who, what, when, where, why, and how of every assignment. According to Michaels, it is not enough just to do the task; you have to know the story behind the task, because only then will you truly be able to outpace expectation. He stressed that a job is only as boring as you allow it to be, and counseled interns to be constantly asking the question “What value am I adding?”
He also challenged interns to continuously seek ways to improve both themselves and their environment. Every intern walked away from the Lunch & Learn with both a piece of advice in one hand and a homework assignment in the other. The advice? “If you have to complain, turn it into a suggestion or a solution.” Likewise, the homework assignment was a simple yet somewhat daunting task for the end of the summer - to come up with one element of our current work environment that could be improved upon and send it in, preferably with a suggestion on how to improve it.
It was refreshing to benefit from the advice of a leader without having to frantically take notes on the minutiae of the way a business is run or the way a product is developed, particularly as many interns do not yet know what they want to do with their lives. Ken’s message during the Lunch & Learn emphasized that we will never know where our careers may lead, and that it doesn’t matter where we start out so long as we actually do something once we start. I believe I speak for all interns when I say that we walked out of that room with a more well-rounded perspective on career development than when we walked in. It was like having a long talk with a good friend over coffee -- positive, lighthearted, and full of advice that, whether you know it yet or not, will help launch you into the next stages of your life.