Why You Shouldn't Worry About Being "Indispensable" As An Intern

Don't settle for just a job. Find a career. Unlock your potential with PathMatch.

Join PathMatch

In recent years, companies have used the term “indispensable” in news articles and blog posts to increase Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on their website. This gives potential employees false hope that they can follow a single formula to develop immunity in the workplace. 

Unfortunately, the real way to become indispensable as an intern is to understand that everyone is replaceable. This week alone, HP Inc. has become the latest tech company to announce major job cuts and hiring freezes. Other record-high layoffs this year have included employees from Meta, Twitter and Microsoft. 

Interns are not immune from the flux of companies, but these changes do not always reflect an employee’s worth. Even CEOs like Apple Co-Founder Steve Jobs have been kicked out of their own companies before. But, Jobs did not let the ever-changing market discourage him and neither should you!

I’ll be blunt – experts say that it’s usually unwise for an intern to aim at being indispensable. So, your aim as an intern is less about being indispensable and more about making an impact with the time you have. 

Showcase A Skill Set 

Do you have skills that set you apart from other coworkers? Of course you do. Offer to step up and teach your coworkers what you know. It might seem strange or even a bit taboo to showcase your skills as a fly-on-the-wall intern, but times are changing. Interns are not just for grabbing coffee and taking notes anymore, especially when Generation Z (Gen Z) is currently known as the best educated generation yet

According to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report, Gen Z spends 12% more time on LinkedIn Learning to build their hard skills than the average person. This generation of interns prefers mobile learning and also has a wide range of knowledge on apps to increase productivity in the workplace. 

Let’s say you are a podcast guru and your company is struggling to produce clean audio. If you’re not sure about offering your expertise right away, you can begin by compiling a list of resources ie. podcasts, webinars, tutorials, blog posts and apps that are simple and effective for the project at hand. 

This practice of skill sharing with higher-level employees sounds daunting, but your company will appreciate your enthusiasm and other employees will likely follow your lead. Once you’ve laid the groundwork, you can work in new ways of skill sharing. Some other opportunities to skillshare may arise from engaging in conversation with your peers during lunch or at work-related events.

Regardless, it is imperative that you dive in head first as an intern, taking advantage of everything your company has to offer you. Do your best to reciprocate and your boss is sure to notice. 

Know Your Strengths

As writers, we are known to miss a deadline here and there. As a matter of fact, I made the mistake of submitting an article late at my first internship. One afternoon at work, I expressed to my editor how awful I felt about my mismanagement. I told him that I hadn’t always been a punctual writer, but I would do my best to improve. He was compassionate and went on to enlighten me about a life-changing truth: he told me that the rules of the game can always be bent for talent. 

In other words, if you have to submit late, make sure the end result is worth the wait. To my surprise, my editor had submitted my article for an Alaska Press award that year and I had won their first prize in feature writing. 

This is why it’s important to make sure your strengths outshine your weaknesses. It’s not always about being well-rounded, though it doesn’t hurt to have a diverse skill set. Sometimes, a weakness such as poor presentation skills can be overlooked when you are constantly impressing your team by suggesting creative solutions via email or text. It’s all about finding your time and place to shine. 

Optimism, Optimism, Optimism

Here’s the good news: you can stand out from others just by smiling at work or regularly asking your boss for feedback to improve. 

It’s the secret sauce to a thriving company. Interns with optimism are not only magnetic to be around, but scientifically proven to love their job, work harder and stay longer. According to a Scheier and Carver study, “Optimism is associated with a wide variety of positive outcomes, including better mental and physical health, motivation, performance, and personal relationships. Optimists do respond better to disappointment than pessimists, with more resilience, and less stress.”

Likewise, a Leadership IQ survey of 11,308 employees revealed that only 13% of people have a high level of optimism, while 33% of people have moderately low to low levels of optimism. This same study concluded that highly optimistic people are 103% more inspired to give their best effort at work. 

Furthermore, an Associated Press poll (2021) found that Gen Z, followed by millennials, are the most optimistic generations – with the most motivation to create change. They believe that their actions have political and social impacts. 

In short, optimism and enthusiasm is your superpower. Not only will it make you enjoy your internship and perform better, your positivity will help endear you to your coworkers at the company, which can lead to amazing personal connections and even a Pre-Placement Offer after your internship ends.

At the end of the day, while no intern is truly “indispensable,” you can be an intern that makes their mark. Someone who will be able handle stress, criticism and failures, and return to work the next day with the same eagerness to problem solve and break new ground. 

Still looking for an internship? PathMatch is dedicated to helping students like you. Check out our app so we can help match you with great internships that can kick-start your future career.

Build a better career on PathMatch