Things to tell your intern – a little planning goes a long way

This is the latest in our series of thoughts around what a new entrant to the world of work might usefully need to know – the sort of things that won’t be in too many textbooks. We’ve looked at aspects such as when to tell lies and when to ask stupid questions – here’s one that sounds somewhat more positive than those last two!

It took me a long time to realise this, and it only really hit me once I became a consultant rather than line manager. Attending many meetings, as I had for many years, I realised how few people actually prepared properly – or at all in many cases – for those meetings*. So the consequence was that anyone who did do a little prep could come over very well, probably achieve what they wanted to achieve from the meeting, and generally look pretty impressive in that environment.

That’s one of the secrets of consultants actually. Be prepared and you will be several steps ahead of the poor old line manager who rushes in to the meeting from their latest crisis, without the right papers, having not read what they should have or followed through previous actions.

It’s little wonder that top executives often get the impression that consultants are smarter than their own staff. It’s not really being smarter, it is just taking a few minutes to actually get ready for the meeting. But that makes all the difference in terms of appearing to be on top of things and having a grasp of the issues.

So, I know time is always tight, but particularly as a young trainee or manager, taking those few minutes to prepare is well worthwhile. Read previous papers, think about what is going to come up, and what you want to achieve, do that five minutes of research so you have a bit of background to the topic, call the person who knows all about a key issue... you can look really good in a meeting, even if you’re not really the most experienced or knowledgeable person there, just by a bit of decent preparation.

You know it makes sense!

(*The exception is my experience as a non-executive director on three Boards, where I have found generally my fellow non-execs were pretty diligent in terms of preparation. Perhaps the weight of the governance responsibility drives that – or perhaps they were just senior people, experienced at appearing to have studied the huge stacks of paper before each meeting!)

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