Congratulations! You’ve landed the ever-so-coveted internship. Maybe you’ll be working for the company of your dreams in the fall, or you’re just picking up a local gig to earn some extra bucks and boost your resume. Either way, committing any of these intern sins is a surefire way to land yourself right in Internship Hell.
1. Failing to Dress the Part
Sweatpants and baggy T-shirts may be the norm for the night-class you’re headed to once your day is over, but that’s highly inappropriate for any office. On the other hand, a pantsuit and dress shoes aren’t always the move for every job either. Pay attention to how the other people in your office are dressed, and plan your wardrobe accordingly.
2. Acting Too Casual
It’s important to read the vibe of the office and act accordingly, but don’t sacrifice professionalism for personality. “If you feel it’s a more casual environment where people interact and joke around, then you should feel more comfortable joining in,” said Jon Sham, a multimedia journalist at The Baltimore Sun. “If not, then you clearly shouldn’t instigate.” You want the full-time employees and your supervisors to see you as a part of the team, but remember that you’re still last string. You may only be a 20-something year old college kid, but using text-slang in an email to your boss is not a gr8 way to make sure they’ll TTYL when an actual job opens up in the future.
3. Thinking “I’ll Remember This.”
Spoiler alert: You won’t. Whether it’s instructions for an important task or just the day’s coffee order, write everything down. Not only will it help you get everything right, but doing so unprompted will be super impressive to your superiors. Little low-key ways to show that you care about doing things well can add up to a great reputation. “The only way to get the second job is to do really well at the first job, whatever it is,” said Washington Post deputy managing editor Tracy Grant.
4. Blaming Others for your Mistakes
Of course the one time you forget to write something down is the time you get it wrong. It’s easy to throw your fellow interns or the employee who taught you under the bus for your mistakes, but taking ownership is much more mature. “Take whatever criticism in a professional manner and move on,” Sham said. “Don’t belabor it or bring it up again.” Using your screw-ups as a learning experience shows that you’re dedicated to doing things right, even though you’re only human.
5. Hating on the Boring Stuff
Though it’s disappointing when the “interns only run coffee” stereotype becomes a reality, the dull tasks are another opportunity to show your reliability as an employee. “We had email templates saying ‘We would like to maintain our relationship with *insert company name here*…’ to copy and edit accordingly. I actually lost count of the number of times I sent the emails with *insert company name here*, forgetting to change it,” said University of Pittsburgh junior Ryan Steffes. Little jobs like this may seem insignificant, but your performance on these are what build your image as a reputable employee able to move up in the business. “If you think the only way you can make the organization better is by being CEO, I guarantee you will never be CEO,” Grant said.
6. Considering It “Just a Job”
Not all internships are your big break, but they’re all chances to be expanding your network, adding to your resume and expanding your portfolio. Volunteer to take on projects and learn some new skills, even if it means coming in early or staying late to do your best. Even if the company isn’t one you see yourself working for, proving to them that you’re a dedicated worker will still open doors for you when it comes to references and recommendations. “If you are given an opportunity, and then you’re sort of like ‘Okay, well, I start at 9 and I leave at 5,’ that doesn’t impress,” Grant said. “You’re in an internship for 10, 11, 12 weeks. You can catch up on sleep some other time.”
7. Forgetting to Stay in Touch
Just because you’re a star intern doesn’t mean that your company is bound to hit you up immediately upon your graduation. Who knows how many amazing coffee-runners there will be between now and then? The way to guarantee you turn that internship into a job is by staying in touch. Send a thank you email after your last day, and continue to update your employer on what you’re doing. Where are you interning this semester that you were able to use the skills you learned in their office? Did you see a recent project that impressed you? Do you just happen to be graduating in a few months and want to let them know? Sending little messages keeps you on their radar, and will lead them to give you a shot at real employment post-graduation. “I can tell you from the perspective of a former intern boss, we love hearing from our former interns.” Sham said. “You’re not bothering us, unless you were a total slacker.”