Internships can be an incredible learning experience, but they can also damage your reputation if you don’t conduct yourself in a professional manner. Here are the top 10 mistakes interns make, and how they can avoid them:
1. Scoffing at boring or menial tasks
If you excel at the boring tasks you are assigned and do them with a smile, you may be given more interesting assignments. When you start as an intern, you have to prove yourself in the work world. If you do a great job on the boring work, pay attention to detail, follow instructions, and care about quality, you’re more likely to be trusted with more interesting work. So it’s important to go into the job determined to do every task well, no matter how menial.
2. Dressing inappropriately
If you look like you’re dressing for a class rather than a job, it will seem like you don’t take your job seriously. Pay attention to how the higher-ups in your office dress and mirror that level of formality. Flip-flops, exposed midriffs, and visible bra straps are generally not appropriate for the office.
3. Ignoring the office culture
Office culture is the invisible force that tells you how things are done around here. You can pick up on it by observing how others in the office behave. For example, if people lower their voices when taking phone calls or avoid walking through the halls on the phone, do the same. If they’re precisely on time for meetings, you should be as well. While these things may sound small, they’ll help you come across as someone who fits into a professional setting.
4. Being too casual
Even informal workplaces tend to be formal and interns need to adapt. This means, don’t put your feet up on your desk, use text-speak in emails, swear, or use cavalier phrases like “my bad” when you realize you made a mistake.
5. Segregating yourself with the other interns
It might be tempting to hang out with your peer group, but make sure that you get to know other employees as well, including those who are older. More experienced co-workers are generally better positioned to give you career advice, help you connect to a future job, and provide references.
6. Not asking for feedback
If your manager doesn’t offer feedback, ask him/her how your doing and what you could do better. Also, welcome critical and corrective feedback; that’s how you’ll learn and get better at what you do.
7. Neglecting to thank people who help you
If a co-worker takes the time to help you learn something, make sure you offer a sincere thank you. Someone who feels appreciated is more likely to go out of his/her way to help you again.
8.Not paying attention when something doesn’t involve you
Part of the value of an internship is that you can absorb a ton of information about how things work in your field. It’s best to pay attention even when something isn’t directly relevant to your work.
9. Talking more than listening
You might think that you have plenty of answers, but before you suggest new ways of doing things, soak up as much information as you can about how the organization works and why things are done the way they’re done.
10. Not keeping in touch once your internship ends
Once you’re back in school or at another job, make sure you stay in touch with the manager and co-workers from your previous internship. The occasional email about what you’re up to can maintain the relationship, and build professional relationships that can help you for years to come.