8 Mistakes to Avoid While Doing an Internship

manager explaining work to an intern at a computer monitor

Charday Penn/Getty Images 

An internship is a valuable college experience that teaches students how to act and perform professionally in the real world while affording them the opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills in a particular industry. No longer optional, an internship is one of the first things employers look for on resumes. 

Benefits of Completing an Internship

The benefits of an internship are numerous, but the top reasons most students seek out internship opportunities include:

  • A chance to include relevant experience on a resume
  • Gaining the knowledge and skills required to be successful in a field
  • Learning the ins and outs of the business with the help of a mentor
  • Networking with professionals and establishing long-term connections

In order to get the most out of your internship, you must put your best foot forward and avoid anything that would compromise these benefits. According to employers, the following are some of the most common mistakes that interns make that could cost them a great professional reference or an offer for a full-time position with the company.

Taking the Internship Too Casually

Students must approach the internship experience in a professional manner. Establishing goals beforehand will help define what you want to accomplish and how to get there. Because we live in a global marketplace students need to realize how competitive the world is and act accordingly.

Avoiding Menial Tasks

Everyone has something they don't like about their job. For management, it may be too many meetings. For interns, tasks like filing are boring but doing menial work quickly and cheerfully demonstrates a good work ethic. You'll also gain the respect of your boss, which could lead to more challenging work. But you want to avoid being taken advantage of. If you speak with your employer beforehand about responsibilities you'll have grounds for requesting some challenging work mixed in with the filing.

Poor Time Management

Getting to work late or taking long lunch breaks doesn't sit well with employers. As a professional, you should adhere to the rules and regulations of the office. If work begins at 8:30 am and ends at 4:30 pm, don't arrive at 8:45 am and leave at 4 pm. If everyone takes an hour for lunch, do the same.

You should also prioritize your time. If you have multiple tasks, it's your job to prioritize them. If necessary, speak with your supervisor to determine which are the most time-sensitive. 

Not Adhering to the Office Dress Code

You’ve probably heard that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. College students have leeway about dress attire but in the workplace dressing too casual or inappropriately makes you look unprofessional. If you’re not sure how to dress look at how your co-workers dress or ask your supervisor before you start.

Not Learning the Office Culture

Individuality is a good trait but not when it clashes with the corporate culture. Some offices are formal and corporate, while others are laid-back and casual. Oftentimes just observing how employees behave and interact will help you fit in.

Not Taking the Time to Establish Important Relationships 

To get the most out of your experience, establish relationships with good mentors and co-workers who can share their knowledge and skills. Keeping in touch after the internship will keep you plugged into job openings in the company.

Not Asking Your Supervisor for Important Feedback

Feedback and constructive criticism should be two of the main goals of an internship. Feedback will improve your performance at that job and in the future. Have a follow-up conversation to gauge improvement and see what other things you can do to improve.

Failure to Take Advantage of Resources 

Internships provide an opportunity to learn all sorts of things about an industry or company. Reading professional journals and attending industry conferences, talks and lectures are great ways to broaden your knowledge.