Whether you’re figuring out which career path to follow or adding another notch to your experience belt, internships are crucial in many industries. They provide an opportunity for you to make the right impression on your possible future employer and gain real-world experience. And while you shouldn’t expect to be hired full-time after an internship, you should treat it just as seriously as you’d treat a full-time job.
We’ve all heard horror stories about interning—ugh, unpaid internships—and, yes, your internship will probably involve some grunt work. But if your experience is merely tedious, stick with it, girl. The good stuff is on its way. (If your internship is exploitative, on the other hand, you’re welcome to kindly, gently, just get the hell out of there.)
As someone who’s interning (s/o to Girlboss!) and working a part-time job at the same time, I approach these positions with equal seriousness. I know that I’ll come out of each with new skillsets that I can take to my next job—and I make every effort to leave each employer with a great impression.
But before I continue preaching on my impeccable worth ethic, let me just mention that I’ve had my fair share of mistakes in previous internships and I’ve come a long way. During my last year at university, I vividly recall rolling into work in the previous night’s makeup, stale hot Cheeto breath, and a Canadian Tuxedo. (I was going through a really intense denim-on-denim phase.) Did I forget to mention that I was working as an Economic Analysis intern under a money manager during that time? Yeah. Thankfully my manager was understanding, and let me off with a warning instead of severely chastising me for my poor decisions.
The moral of the story is you don’t need to experience what I went through. It was a character-building moment, but I can’t promise that all employers will act like mine did. Luckily, these rookie moves are easily preventable.
Here are some tips we’ve put together for you to avoid common mistakes and score the gold star of recognition you deserve.
Don’t be late
It sounds obvious, but bears repeating: Show up on time and hit your deadlines. It’s cool to be 30 minutes late if you have a pre-cleared doctor’s appointment; it’s less cool to be 30 minutes late cuz it’s Friday and you’re strolling in with a frappe. Avoid excessive tweeting, ’gramming, and Facebooking while you’re at work. (If you have a social media internship, you’re exempted from this one.) Take copious notes and listen when your manager is giving directions; a good boss will understand that you’re learning a skill for the first time, but they’ll expect you to… well… belearning. And while in a couple of years you’ll probably be running the place, it’s not a bad idea to stay humble and pick up work that will lift some of the pressure off of your other teammates.
Don’t wait around for something to happen
Interning for the first time can be daunting. But once you’ve settled in and gotten the lay of the land, do your best to take extra initiative when appropriate. It shows that you’re interested in the position. Also, even if you’re pretty sure you never want to work for the company full-time, many industries are small and well-networked. Building a good reputation now can only help you out down the line.
In the same vein, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Scratch that—ask tons of questions! And be proactive when it comes to your responsibilities; if you run out of work, feel free to ask for the next assignment and see where you can offer assistance. A little effort goes a long way. Imagine how far putting in 100% will take you.
Don’t forget the small stuff
Writing everything down will help you ensure you don’t forget the smaller tasks that gets thrown your way at the end of a meeting or emailed to you after the workday.
No need to panic. We’re all guilty of pushing things aside until some inevitably fall into the sunken place.Staying productiveand on top of each task requires organization. Keep track of your assignments with a bullet journal, turn on your Google calendar notifications, and get rid of any unnecessary distractions.
Don’t spring things on your supervisor
Effective communication is the foundation for any healthy relationship—and your professional relationships are no exception to this rule. If you stumble upon an issue or you’re having difficulty reaching a deadline, let your supervisor know. The same goes for taking time off. Be sure to give your supervisor two weeks’ notice before you plan vacation time. Great communication is a soft skill, but it’s a crucial one.
Never, ever talk about being hungover
We’ve all had the occasional slip-up and thrown caution to the wind on a Taco Tuesday; damn those margaritas! You may want to cry and eat your weight in cold pizza during the morning meeting, but keep the struggle inside. Expressing yourself is generally awesome—but loudly expressing how much fun you had on the dance floor last night while reeking of rum is just not that profesh.
Boundaries are your friend!Some workplaces are more lenient, of course. But if you find yourself wondering whether something’s appropriate to discuss at work, go ahead and assume it’s not.