The emphasis on students getting internships is as strong as ever, but these “real life” experiences can be real hard. Making mistakes helps you to learn and grow as a person, but if you can learn from other people’s mistakes, that’s a win-win situation. Check out some of the most common mistakes you should avoid next time you find yourself behind a desk in business casual.
1. Not asking for feedback
Brooke Hanson, founder and CEO of Supertutor Media, Inc., stressed the importance of making sure you’re taking care of business the right way. “You don’t want to ask for too much help, but asking for feedback once or twice the first day or two can be a good move,” Hanson said.
2. Wasting people’s time
You’re at an internship to work, and so is every other person there. Asking questions every 10 minutes can become excessive and disruptive. “Oftentimes you’re working with very busy people who don’t have a lot of time to explain things,” Hanson said. To avoid being that annoying intern, compile all your questions and ask them in one go. “Just know that the answer might be, ‘I’m too busy right now,’” Hanson said.
3. Not writing tasks down
Writing things down makes them tangible and easier to refer to. Bring a notebook to work and write down all the instructions you get. Hanson said, “People don’t like to repeat themselves and you’re not going to remember as much as you think you will.” Jenny Jakubowski, photo assistant at Backpacker Magazine, admitted to doing just that. “Even now, I keep a moleskin notebook with me always and write everything down in it. It’s helpful to look back on and that way you don’t miss the small details,” Jakubowski said.
4. Keeping to yourself
Don’t be afraid to be vocal when it’s appropriate. “Open up, talk about what you’re working on, ask questions once a day if relevant and say hello and goodbye,” Hanson said. Katrina Crocker, director of communications at Central New York Community Foundation, Inc., recalled being a timid intern. “I wish I had engaged my fellow interns and coworkers more to take better advantage of the tremendous resources available to me,” Crocker said.
5. Assuming you’ll get a full-time offer
Having an internship blossom into a full-time job gig isn’t guaranteed, and assuming it is can strain your working relationship with your superiors. “Embrace your internship for what it most likely will be: a temporary position that will enrich your professional experience for that future job still in the making,” Crocker said.
6. Not knowing when to ask for help
There will be times when you are simply assigned too much, or are spending more time trying to figure out an assignment than actually completing it. Your supervisor is there to help you, so take advantage of that. “Never be too afraid to ask for help,” Crocker said. “Everyone needs it.”
7. Being late
Showing up late or failing to show up at all is extremely unprofessional. “This displays disrespect for your employer’s time and can reflect badly when they are called upon as a reference,” Crocker said. “Be early,” Jakubowski said. “If you’re late it sets your whole day back and you’ll feel like you never got a chance to stop and breathe. Get there 10 to 15 minutes early and compose yourself.”
8. Losing touch
We’ve all heard the golden word, “networking,” thrown around because connections really are essential. Michael Marra, the business development manager of Graduate With No Debt, said, “Interns meet and work with tons of professional and successful people, but they do not try to develop relationships with them.” In the workplace, you are surrounded by people with careers in a field you want to be in. Take advantage of that. “If you develop relationships with successful people, you will most likely be successful yourself,” Marra said.
9. Becoming lazy
You may start out as the most passionate, hard working intern, but many times, people will fall into a pattern of laziness. “Stay hungry,” Jakubowski said. “You never know where it could lead you.” Marra agreed, “If an intern does not show passion towards our vision as a company and 100 percent effort, I will not hire them. The biggest thing that is inexcusable is being lazy.”
10. Not acting like you work for the company
Even though your job as an intern is temporary, it’s important to maintain the mindset that you are working for the company. “The company and person mentoring you at the internship have chosen to associate their names with yours,” Jakubowski said. Not caring enough or acting like the intern you are can really screw up your chance of building a healthy professional reputation.”It can be detrimental because that company or mentor won’t give you a good recommendation when you move on to your next internship or job,” Jakubowski said.
11. Repeating the same mistakes
As you would anywhere in life, you’re going to make mistakes at your internship. They help you learn and grow as a person. Yet if you are continually making the same mistakes, it becomes a problem. “Once an intern has been spoken to about their performance and the negative ramifications surrounding it, and they don’t do anything to fix it afterwards, it just shows that they’re lazy and don’t value the opportunity given to them,” Jakubowski said.
12. Not doing the research
“Know the industry or company you’re applying to for an internship,” Jakubowski said. There is a certain extent of knowledge about the company you should have going into your internship. Friendly reminder: Google exists.
13. Not asking about the dress code
Professionalism is big on looking good to feel good and dressing to impress. “Don’t feel silly about asking about [the] dress code before you start, it’s always a valid question. That or over dress a bit more than you think is necessary — better to be over dressed than under dressed,” Jakubowski said.
14. Taking the opportunity for granted
You, specifically, were picked for the internship you got. Commit yourself. Heloise Goodman at Fragile Artists said, “Interns that have been really successful for me have treated their internship more important than a full-time job and really taken their tasks seriously.”
15. Scoffing at the small tasks
Sometimes you might have to go on a coffee run or sort through hundreds of emails. That doesn’t mean it’s not important. Goodman said, “I can’t excuse a lack of respect for the task at hand even when it seems menial. You need to take it seriously even if you have to do something that doesn’t seem that interesting.”