You’ve networked, polished your resume, and schmoozed almost to the point of exhaustion. Landing your first internship gig can be difficult, but the long term rewards will prove you’re hard work and painstaking dedication has finally paid off. Receiving word you just landed your dream internship may leave you elated, but now it’s time to prove your worth; here are the top mistakes to avoid.
Top Ten Most Common Intern Mistakes
- Choosing Based on Brand: Though a company name carries with it a strong reputation, you should choose an internship which closely aligns with your career choice, rather than on the brand itself. Map your career course and "5 year plan" before applying to help narrow down your list. Your choice should be based on the internship job description, duties, and possible permanent employment in the department that offers opportunities akin to your specific career goals.
- Taking Your Internship for Granted: In most cases, you internship will be unpaid. This does not give you a free pass to come in late, miss work, or shirk seemingly menial duties. Show HR and your superiors how much you want that full time gig by immersing yourself in your work. Make a good impression by going whole heartedly into your internship - now is the time to prove yourself to upper management.
- Misinterpreting "Business Casual": Dress to impress, especially if you are dealing directly with clients. Depending on your position, there may be a more relaxed dress code but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Dress conservatively and ask your superiors about the dress code before you show up on your first day.
- The Inability to Multitask: Whether you are working for a big busy firm or a mom and pop shop, you must be able to properly manage your time and multitask. As the newbie, you may be asked to a variety of different tasks throughout the day, schedule your time accordingly. During your internship you are continuously being assessed by management, let them know you have what it takes to get the job done especially under pressure.
- Forgetting to Unplug: During periods of downtime during the workday don’t use your cell or other handheld devices unless it is for business purposes. These days, most companies have a cell phone use policy - know it and abide by it.
- Having a "Loner" Attitude: Team building and colleague comradery are extremely important to your career survival. Everyone battles with bouts of shyness, but be sure to engage with your coworkers. This will help you find mentors and also make working in teams on projects much easier.
- Avoiding Grunt Work: Grabbing your boss a cup of coffee or making dinner reservations for a superior may not be in your job description, but it can earn you bonus points with higher-ups. Take these grunt tasks in stride, they show management you are trying to pay your dues and are willing to go the extra mile.
- Being Silent: Just because you are an intern doesn’t mean you are to be seen and not heard. When participating in group projects or staff meetings, voice your opinions and ideas, ask questions, and offer comments. This helps you show management what you are made of, it also displays your dedication to working with others for the common good of the company.
- Failure to Branch Out: Internships are often stringently focused on certain duties in specific departments. When you have time, make sure to branch out by checking out different areas of the business. Investigate other departments to gain insight on what role your duties play in the grand scheme of things.
- Failing to Embrace the Company Culture: Every business has a unique company culture. To "fit in" observe your colleagues in action. You will soon learn which behaviors are acceptable and which are not, different types of etiquette and how should be employed, and what types of communication are preferred.
Landing your first internship is an exciting experience and can prove extremely lucrative in the long run. Avoiding these pitfalls and successfully completing your internship will most likely lead to full-time employment at your dream job.
Image via Power to Change