Training the New Hire

Posted on Friday, Nov 16, 2018

Interning in D.C. has been one of, if not the, best experiences in my life up to this point. My time in the International Trade Administration (ITA) has given me so much opportunity for growth, reflection, networking, and other experiences that will only increase in value down the road. My time at ITA has not been without its struggles however. As fate would have it, the person who would have been the direct supervisor for me and the other intern left shortly before we were to start. Though temporary staff covered her position during the first month of our internship, this put us in the intriguing position of teaching the replacement once October rolled around. Here’s how we did it.
Step 1: Be patient. The person you’re training will (hopefully) be very eager to learn how to do their job as quickly as possible. This will involve a lot of them looking over your shoulder, and you taking several times longer to complete a task, so they can keep up. That’s good! The only way they can learn is by watching you at first, so give them every opportunity you can to do that.
Step 2: Be humble. Look, you’re an intern. In my case, I’d only been doing the job for a month before it became time for me to turn around and teach someone else how to do it. I did not have all the answers. And when the moments arise when you’re asked a question you don’t know the answer to admit it and go find someone who does. You’re not helping the trainee or yourself by pretending to know more than you do.
Step 3: Be kind. This is D.C. one of the most transient cities in the nation. Everybody's from somewhere else, and in my case, the new hire had just moved here a few days ago and new virtually no one in the city. Be friendly, get to know them, show them cool spots to get lunch near the office. You don’t have to be best friends with your coworkers to work well together, but a little comradery never hurt anyone.
Put the above steps together, and voila you have one successfully trained employee. Now I realize it is unlikely that whoever is reading this will find themselves in this exact situation. But the point is whatever office you end up in, on the Hill, in an agency, or somewhere else, you’re going to be put in new situations you never even considered. Whatever those situations happen to be, jump in and make the most of it.

Grant Cook
U.S. Commercial Service - International Trade Administration
Washington, D.C. | fall 2018