Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
INTERNSHIPS / JUN. 26, 2014
version 2, draft 2

10 Mistakes to Avoid as an Intern

An internship is an important pre-professional experience for students to grasp an idea of how to act and work in the real world. It is also a great chance for students to develop the knowledge and skills required to be successful in the field, network with professionals and establish long-term connections as well as learn the in’s and out’s of the business.

Since an internship makes the first career step of a student, it is imperative that the intern not only makes a good impression but also be a positive and valuable contribution to the company. This will ultimately help the intern score extra points and increase the chances of landing a full-time job.

According to Business Insider, these are some common mistakes to avoid while interning for a company:

1. Disregarding the pre- and post-internship phases

First of all, a common mistake students make is that they tend to take the internship quite casually and avoid researching the organisation they will be part of holistically. Kerry Schofield, a psychologist and the chief psychometrics officer at professional assessment and self-improvement platform Good.Co suggests urges students to ask questions, take tours before the internship starts. When the internship is over do follow up with thank-you notes, update your resume and you’re your connections with the people you met.

2. Getting frustrated or complaining about being bored

According to Ryan Kahn, a career coach and author of ‘Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad’ most internships start slow and build up in the process. The truth is that not all firms have a structured training program or welcome receptions for new interns – so be ready to jump right in and find opportunities to meaningfully contribute to the organisation. Try to become noticed and distinguished for your positive input.

3. Dismissing menial tasks

Every task that is part of an internship has its value and purpose. Avoid showing frustration over small tasks that might seem boring. Show that you possess a great work ethic and have pride in a job well done and you will gradually win the employer’s trust and confidence which could end up assigning you more challenging tasks. Kahn notes that “even if your first task isn't worthy of your talent or potential, just go for it and be enthusiasticRemember every task builds upon the last, so if you do a mediocre job on the simple things, then there is no way your boss will help you step up to the big projects".

4. Ignoring instructions or advice

You may think your boss and colleagues are at fault, but at the same time you should acknowledge that they have been doing the job a lot longer and may know things you don’t, (Schofield). This is not to say that they are always right, but if you still insist that they are in the wrong; handle the situation diplomatically.

5. Sitting back and waiting

Kahn says that one of the biggest mistakes interns make is that they sometimes do not make the most of all opportunities and resources presented to them. Nothing will happen magically if you don’t chase it and make it happen. You need to explore and assess all the available assets inside and outside the company - from human beings to educational resources and external job opportunities. You need to be proactive and extrovert enough to maximise the value of what you will ultimately get by the time you complete the internship.

6. Getting sloppy with emails

The way you write emails communicates not only your professionalism but also the extent to which you are keen on the job you are doing. Morris Rishty, CEO of REAL Underwear  says that "a poorly written email can show the boss that you have little interest in the position and aren't taking the job seriously". Make sure you proofread your emails at least three times before sending them. Approach work emails in a professional manner and don’t forget that it’s not the same thing as texting your best friend. Remember: You are communicating with potential co-workers and managers.

7. Asking questions without first trying to figure out the answers on their own

OK. Having a lot of questions to ask at the beginning of your internship is perfectly understandable. But instead of bombarding your boss with questions frequently, use your resourcefulness to think whether there is any way you can find the answers on your own. "After this, if there are still some questions you simply couldn't get answers for, create a list to bring in to your boss," Kahn says. "This will show your ability to problem solve and be sensitive of their time".

8. Underestimating how time-consuming certain projects may be

Time management which requires using time wisely is key to meeting deadlines. Schofield suggests “don’t take on more than you can handle”. People sometimes underestimate how much time they will need to perform a task so it is vital to allocate a generous time frame when you are working out the timeline of a project.

9. Taking Criticism Personally

Don’t always take criticism or even negative feedback personally. Remember that if criticism is constructive it will more likely benefit you because it is part of the learning process. Schofield states "don't tolerate bullying or disrespect, but do grow a thick skin — that way you'll learn from your mistakes instead of repeating them.

10. Arriving Late

Not showing up on time at work or taking long break or lunch periods shows you are not reliable. As a professional you will want to prove that you are contentious and you adhere to the rules.

Internships provide a great opportunity to learn fundamental skills and a valuable first-hand work experience. As it is could be a threshold of a new career, you should pay attention to these common mistakes and experts’ advice in order to increase your chances of securing a full-time job.   

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