3 Ways to Grow Professionally | The Washington Center

3 Ways to Grow Professionally

My internship site, the Global Entrepreneurship Network, doesn’t have its own office. Instead, the organization operates out of a startup incubator called 1776, in the middle of D.C.’s business district. The 12th floor space possesses an eclectic aesthetic, combining a Silicon Valley open-space design with reclaimed wood that wouldn’t be out of place in a farm-to-table restaurant. Altogether, the decorations create a pleasant work environment. However, the biome is only one part of the equation. More important are the multi-talented creatures whose interactions make the ecosystem flourish: the entrepreneurs.

 

Deng, Galen, and CJ take on 1776

 

 

They are a unique breed, these entrepreneurs. They flit from one task to the next like a humming bird, never sitting still or resting on their laurels. They also come up with some of the most innovative, yet intuitive, ideas that I’ve heard during my short time on the planet. Take one woman, Deb. She told me that she wasn’t much for business, although I’m sure she was referring to the overarching aura of suits, ties and meeting agendas. She’s creating a pressure-sensitive yoga mat that gives the user feedback on posture and balance after each session. Brilliance incarnate, but it’s still one of the more straight-forward products I’ve encountered during my time at 1776.

 

It might seem daunting to walk into a building full of so many creative minds. I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t constantly intimidated throughout my first week there. However, there are some simple things you can do to reduce the “larger-than-life” shadow some of these giants cast. Entrepreneurs are much easier to relate to when they’re only “slightly-taller-than-average.”

 

1. When Networking, Wait for the Opportune Moment

When my supervisor showed me around the building on my first day, he pointed out all sorts of distractions. There are books, a 3D printer and even an Xbox, but no one indulges. Everyone who works here is laser-focused on their goals, tirelessly plugging away at their computers and pacing the open floor with their cellphones. Entrepreneurs have a lot to offer in the way of new ideas and life advice, but as an intern you’ve got to meet them on their terms. My advice is to catch them when they’re eating. 1776 has a shared kitchen and caters lunch two days a week, the perfect time to sit down with a stranger and make a new friend. Alternatively, many workplaces have after-hour gatherings. Introductions are a lot easier when people don’t have their “business faces” on.

 

2. Don’t Sell Yourself Short

As an intern, it’s easy to jump into an organization on the bottom rung and accept that position: “I’m new, so I don’t know what’s going on” or “I’m inexperienced, so my work might not be up to your standards.” This is one of the most dangerous mentalities to have, in my opinion. Yes, being realistic about one’s abilities is important. But the organization brought you in to work with them for a reason; every TWC intern is smart, insightful and driven towards success. When someone asks “What do you do?” (which I assure you, will happen daily), the response should exude a sense of belief that you are making a difference. Just by being there, you have made a difference in the organization and have contributed to its future. Own it.

 

3. Take Advantage of Every Opportunity to Learn

Whether its jumping on a project that you might not have all the tools for, or attending a panel that your company has organized, be sure to make the most of every chance that comes your way. A TWC internship offers the prospect of transformational growth; it’s up to you to seize it. Incubator spaces like 1776 are especially valuable because they hold regular events and “office hours” that allow you to meet with seasoned veterans who can offer advice on all sorts of operational concerns. I don’t profess to be a businessperson, but I’m doing my best to learn the entrepreneurial process. When that killer concept comes along, I plan to be poised to reap the benefits.

 

Event of the Week: 1776 Challenge Cup Global Finals

 

Round 1 of the Global Finals

 

 

The Challenge Cup is a pitch competition run by 1776 that attracts startups from around the world. The entrepreneurs get one minute to explain their entire concept, from ideation to implementation. Successful pitches garnered attention from judges and investors alike, with the top eight presenters receiving giant cardboard checks. Between presentations, the floor was a flurry of networking and dealmaking. The entire event was a strange combination of heady idealism (“We are changing the world!”) and cutthroat competition (“What can you do for me?”). I’ve never felt more alive.


Read Galen's previous blog posts here

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