Career Planning

Expert Advice and Tips for Interns (Hint: NEVER do this...)

Want to learn how to make the most of your internship and how to be a good intern? We reveal insider secrets to making your mark as an intern, including the biggest mistakes to avoid.
May 4, 2023
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So you’ve done the hard part of securing your internship, but now it’s time to make the most of it. You’ve probably been warned against some internship fatal flaws like missing meetings and being disrespectful to your manager, but did you know there are also other mistakes you need to be careful to avoid? In this article, we'll explore essential tips and insights to help you navigate your internship successfully, avoid common mistakes, and set yourself up for future success.

In your internship, make sure to avoid this crucial mistakes:

1. Not doing research

Securing a return offer often begins in the interview process. Some companies can't offer full-time positions, so prospective interns should inquire about this beforehand. Research the company's history with hiring interns or contact past interns for insights.

Tip: Research the company's history with hiring interns. Check if they have a track record of offering full-time positions to former interns. You can also contact past interns through professional networking platforms like LinkedIn to gather insights into their experiences and the company's internship-to-hire polic

2. Not Taking Initiative

Gone are the days of being a passive intern. Show initiative by seeking opportunities to contribute beyond your assigned tasks. Don't wait for assignments; pitch your ideas or lend a hand to colleagues. Building a reputation for proactiveness and inquisitiveness can boost your future career.

Tip: After completing a project, ask for feedback on your performance and ways to enhance your skills. This demonstrates your commitment to growth.

3. Expecting work to speak for itself

In the age of remote work, the sound of silence won't get you far. It's vital to communicate your contributions. Regularly check in with your manager to share progress and upcoming projects, ensuring your value is visible. 

Tip: Keep a “work-wins” document where you jot down your accomplishments, completed projects, and positive feedback received. Regularly check in with your manager to share your progress and upcoming projects, ensuring your value is visible and well-documented.

4. Assuming managers know what you want

Managers can't read minds. Express your intention to return for a full-time role upfront. It allows organizations to evaluate your performance with a long-term perspective.

Tip: Discuss your goals with your supervisor at the beginning of your internship. During your mid-internship or end-of-internship review, discuss your career aspirations and express your interest in a full-time role with the organization. It allows organizations to evaluate your performance with a long-term perspective and aligns your goals with theirs.

5. Being late

This may seem like a given, yet it's a fatal flaw that is often repeated. Being fashionably late might work at a cocktail party, but consistently arriving late or missing deadlines at work is a career buzzkill. Reliability isn't just a virtue; it's your golden ticket.

Tip: Set multiple reminders for meetings and deadlines. Arriving on time and meeting your commitments consistently not only shows reliability but also professionalism.

6. Forgetting the small stuff

Stay organized to remain productive. Keep track of assignments and responsibilities to avoid overlooking tasks. Effective time management and minimizing distractions are key. Don't assume you'll remember everything. Interns receive a lot of information, so take notes and stay organized to avoid repetition and keep track of assignments and schedules.

Tip: Use productivity tools, calendars, or task management apps to keep track of assignments and responsibilities. You can also use time management techniques like the Pomodoro Technique to stay productive during work hours and ensure you take short breaks.

7. Not Communicating Issues 

Effective communication is crucial. If issues arise or you need time off, inform your supervisor promptly. Clear communication is a sign of professionalism. 

Tip: Adapt your communication style to align with your team's preferences, demonstrating flexibility and professionalism.

8. Taking your internship for granted

Internships offer learning and growth opportunities. Taking your role seriously is essential for future success in the industry.

Tip: Send thank-you notes or emails to colleagues who have supported you or provided guidance during your internship. It's a small gesture that can go a long way.

9. Dressing Unprofessionally

First impressions matter. Adhere to the company's dress code and maintain a professional appearance to represent your personal and organizational brand effectively.

Tip: Invest in a professional wardrobe that aligns with the company's culture and expectations.

10. Not Networking

Internships are about more than just work; they're opportunities to network and learn. Engaging with colleagues and taking breaks can enhance your experience. 

Tip: Create a list of professionals you admire within the company and request informational interviews. It's a great way to learn from their experiences and expand your network.

11. Abusing Company Policies

Uphold ethical standards by avoiding actions like misrepresenting your work or disclosing confidential information. Demonstrating integrity and responsibility is crucial.

Tip: Request a mentor or buddy within the organization who can guide you through the company's culture and help you navigate effectively.

12. Not Being Enthusiastic

Demonstrating commitment and willingness to engage with colleagues enhances your professional image.

Tip: Embrace work-related events with enthusiasm and a positive attitude. Participate actively and engage with colleagues. Demonstrating commitment and a willingness to contribute to team events enhances your professional image and fosters positive relationships.

FAQs: More on how to make the most of your internship

What is the number one piece of advice for interns?

Take initiative: Seek opportunities to contribute, ask questions when needed, and be reliable in meeting deadlines. By taking the initiative, interns can maximize the value of their internship, leaving a lasting impression on their supervisors and colleagues.

Should I set internship goals ahead of time?

Setting these internship objectives from the start of your internship is crucial for clarity and motivation. You can establish them independently or in collaboration with your supervisor. These goals provide direction and dedication, particularly for interns who are often recent graduates. They serve as a roadmap for your growth and development during this valuable learning opportunity, ensuring that you actively work towards achieving them.

How can I make the most of my internship?

To make the most of your internship, set clear goals for what you want to learn, take initiative by seeking out opportunities to contribute and learn new skills, build professional relationships through networking, ask questions for guidance, and document your achievements. Seek feedback to improve, be reliable and punctual, maintain a positive attitude, and periodically reflect on your progress.

What should I do after my internship?

To maintain valuable connections and potential career opportunities after completing an internship, it's essential to express gratitude, connect on LinkedIn, and follow the company's updates. Periodically reach out with friendly messages or emails, attend alumni events if available, and offer your assistance or expertise when relevant. Seek advice or mentorship, staying professional in all interactions. Sharing your career progress on platforms like LinkedIn and referring potential candidates to the organization can also foster strong relationships. 

Your internship is not just a checkbox on your resume; it's a pivotal stepping stone in your career journey. By adhering to the advice and tips shared here, you can proactively shape your internship experience, maximize your learning, and leave a lasting positive impression on your colleagues and supervisors. Remember, your internship is an opportunity for growth, networking, and skill development, so embrace it wholeheartedly.

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