To the Summer Intern: Remember this Batter

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Casey at the Bat by Ernest Thayer

Ease, pride, sneer, haughty grandeur…you get the picture: Casey was a master of his universe. The fact that he strikes out ingloriously by the end of the poem affords a reflection for MBA summer interns, appropriate to this high season of American baseball.

Pro baseball players fail regularly. Consider the batting average, which equals the number of hits divided by the number of times at bat. The highest lifetime batting average in history was earned by Ty Cobb, 0.367. He managed to hit a ball about a third of the time! (Would that business were different, but it’s not: venture capital investments, entrepreneurial start-ups, corporate R&D projects, new product introductions, etc. fail more often than not.) Yogi Berra, a famous catcher, once said, “Losing is a learning experience. It teaches you humility. It teaches you to work harder. It’s also a powerful motivator.”

Now, it takes a certain amount of self-confidence to succeed in any way. But the poem of Casey at the Bat suggests over-confidence, even a sense of entitlement, for winning the game. What can summer interns learn from the story of Casey?

In the past decade or more, the summer internship has emerged to be the prime gateway into an offer of full-time employment. Most summer interns want a full-time offer. As my previous posts show, there is a range of things one can do to improve the odds (see this, this, and this). One of the most important things not to do, is be a Casey—that is, unless everyone else around you behaves like Casey, upon which I would question why you are working there.

The vast majority of MBA summer interns don’t have this problem. But once in a while, I meet someone who is shocked, shocked! that he or she did not get an offer. On reconstructing the summer’s experience, the Casey Syndrome emerges: moaning about the workload, demanding more attention, failing to meet a deadline or a quality expectation, abusing the staff or the expense account, disrespecting peers—at the heart of such behavior is a sense of entitlement that determines a failed outcome. Entitlement, in turn, is driven by a distorted sense of reality.

In late July, the summer intern is headed into the final weeks on the job.

· This is a good moment to get a reality check. Take soundings: “How am I doing?” “Is there anything (else) I can do to help you?” “How does my report or project look to you?” Don’t expect to get a ravingly positive review. But if the soundings suggest uncertainty or negativity, be proactive in responding. Explain what you’ve done and why. Present a positive case for what you’ve achieved. Be sincere and authentic. Don’t overwhelm the listener with your grandeur.

· Whatever the employer thinks of you, consider what you think of the employer. It’s hard to wear an attitude that differs from what you think inside. If the experience hasn’t turned out to be what you expected, come to terms with that. Most importantly, start reflecting on what you have learned from the internship. What do you know now that you didn’t know before?

· Finish strong. Don’t stroll or limp to the end of your internship. No matter what kind of an experience you’ve had, your self-esteem will be affected by the way you bring things to a close. Take the high road. No matter what, thank everyone as you exit.

What makes Casey at the Bat such a poignant story is the shattered expectation: “there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.” The fans feel most disappointed. Such won’t be the case for most summer interns returning to their schools, at least if they have considered advice such as this.

Casey at the Bat

by Ernest Lawrence Thayer

The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play.
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, if only Casey could get but a whack at that –
We’d put up even money, now, with Casey at the bat.

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despis-ed, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and the men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped-
"That ain’t my style," said Casey. "Strike one," the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they’d a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, "Strike two."

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.

This entry was posted in Leadership, Management Communcation, Organizational Behavior. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>