Mistakes to Avoid While Interning for a Company

Taking Advantage of All Your Internship Has to Offer

An internship is a pre-professional experience that teaches students how to act and work professionally in the real world. Internships provide great learning experiences for students and help them learn the knowledge and skills it takes to be successful in the real world. Completing an internship in today’s competitive job market is no longer optional since one of the first things that an employer looks for on an applicant’s resume is previous relevant work experience.

Some of the benefits of completing an internship include:

  • A chance to include relevant experience on a resume
  • Gaining the knowledge and skills required to be successful in the field
  • Learning the in’s and out’s of the business with the help of a mentor
  • Networking with professionals in the field and establishing long-term connections

Since internships are so crucial for college students today, it’s imperative that they take the experience seriously. Based on employer feedback, listed below are some of the mistakes that interns make that could cost them a great professional reference or an offer to return for a full-time position with the company.

Top 8 Mistakes Students Should Avoid:

  1. Taking the internship too casually

    Students who embark on an internship must approach the experience in a professional manner. Students who set internship goals prior to starting an internship are the ones who will better understand what it is they are hoping to accomplish which will also give them a better sense of how they are going to get there. Remembering that we are living in a very competitive global marketplace will help remind students that it’s important that they do their best work.

  1. Avoiding menial tasks that are a part of every internship and job

    Just about everybody has something that they hate about their job. It may be filing, getting caught up on emails, or attending meetings where they feel nothing ever gets accomplished. For interns, menial tasks may seem to be a big part of their internship which can be very frustrating when the reason they are there is to learn how to eventually be able to do the job. My doing the menial tasks quickly and cheerfully and show that you possess a great work ethic and have pride in a job well done, you will gain the employer’s confidence which could end up giving you more challenging assignments.

    There can be a fine line between contributing to an organization’s bottom line and being taken advantage of since the company sees you as less experienced and as someone who can handle the filing and making the coffee while employees are able to get their jobs done. I always recommend that students speak with employers about their responsibilities prior to starting the internship. Having this conversation can lead to further discussions if the student begins to feel that their only completing menial tasks rather than what was discussed previously in their interview. It’s much easier to accomplish menial tasks with graciousness and a smile when you also know that you will be given challenging work that will give you the relevant work experience you need to be successful in a future job.

  1. Poor time management skills

    Not getting to work on time or taking long breaks or lunch periods usually does not sit well with employers. As a professional intern, you will want to adhere closely to the rules and regulations of the employer. If the workday begins at 8:30 am and ends at 4:30 pm, the employer will not appreciate someone who comes in at 8:45 am and leaves by 4 pm. When everyone in the organization is given an hour for lunch, it will not bode well with management or your co-workers when you continually take an hour and a half before you return for the afternoon.

    In addition to work hours, it is important to prioritize your time when it comes to completing projects. If you are given a series of conflicting tasks, it will be your job to prioritize them in order to get each one done on time. You may need to have a conversation with your supervisor who will be able to help you prioritize which tasks are the most important ones to complete first. Being able to communicate with your direct supervisors will help you to avoid many conflicts that could arise in the future.

  2. Not adhering to a company’s dress code

    You’ve probably heard that it’s important to dress for the job you want rather than the job you're doing right now. Although you will be starting as an intern and eventually be working in an entry-level job, you probably have higher job aspiration on what you’d like to be doing once you’ve acquired the skills necessary to do a higher-level job. As a college student you have been given some leeway on how you may dress but in the workplace being too casual or inappropriate can negatively impact you when it comes to getting professional references or an offer for a full-time job. If you’re not sure how to dress take a look at others within the organization or before you start, don’t be afraid to ask.

  1. Not learning the office culture

    Individuality and authenticity are good traits to have but can also create problems if you’re not able to fit in with ​the norm that makes up an office culture. Although it’s commendable to be strong and be able to stand up for what you believe in, working at a job may force us to have to evaluate the nuances that take place within a company to help us make it easier to fit in. Oftentimes just watching other employees and how they behave can give us a sense of how we might want to consider adapting yourself so that we better fit into what’s been established within the company.

  1. Not taking the time to establish important relationships while interning for the company.

    In order to be successful at any internship or job, it is crucial to establish key relationships that can assist you in learning over the course of your internship as well as continuing as important networking contacts once the internship is over. Good mentors and co-workers can share important knowledge and skills as well as advise of any office politics that you should be aware of. Keeping in touch after the internship is over is a good way to keep apprised of future job openings within the company and in the field.

  2. Not asking your supervisor for important feedback

    Getting feedback and constructive criticism from your supervisor will help you to become a better worker. Learning from others is one of the main goals of doing an internship and by sharing important feedback you will have the information you need to improve your performance. Make sure that you have the opportunity to touch base with your supervisor again to see if your performance has improved and if there are any other things that you can do to improve.

  3. Failure to take advantage of the vast array of resources available

    Internships provide a great opportunity to learn all sorts of information about a career field or company. Reading professional journals and attending professional development conferences are two ways that you can take advantage of working as an intern. Not taking advantage of these resources while interning for a company can really limit the value of what you will ultimately get while completing an internship.

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