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Common mistakes first time interns make

So, it’s your first internship. In fact, it’s probably your first time working in a professional environment. You’re nervous yet excited. You want to make a great first impression because you’ve been told that “first impressions are everything”. What do you do? Most people’s internships are littered with mistakes that they wish they’d never made. Here is The Intern Group’s guide on what NOT to do.

Start Slowly – When you start your internship, you will want to impress from the get go. Before your internship even begins, there are many things you can do to prepare that will help you accomplish this. Firstly, you should find out as much as possible about the company, including details such as current projects they are working on and maybe even their internal structure. On your first day, when you are given a tour, pay attention and remember everything you can! It might even be a good idea to note the key details down. This is of particular importance when you meet new people. Asking someone’s name for the third time can be extremely awkward and can seem like you don’t pay attention. More importantly, you don’t want to offend the one person standing between you and your dream career.

Poor Time Management – Time management will be one of the most important parts of succeeding during your internship. Make sure you write down everything you have to do, giving yourself detailed instructions and estimate how long it will take you to complete them. This will allow you to plan your day and ensure that you get all your work done on time. Furthermore, another aspect of time management is knowing your managers. Try and get a good read on who wants their work done immediately and who will give you a bit of extra time (it might be a good idea to ask your co-workers about this). These details will help you manage your time more effectively.

Being Too Shy – Intimidation can be a huge factor while interning. You are in a situation where you are surrounded by people who are far more experienced and far more knowledgeable than you. It is very easy to feel small and insignificant. When you feel intimidated there are two things you must remember: that your seniors understand that you are there to learn and therefore do not expect you to be 100% perfect; and you were hired for a reason and the company just wants to get the best out of you. These translate to two things that will help you in your every day office life:

1) Don’t be afraid to ask questions! It is imperative that you know exactly what you are being asked to do. This will allow you to perform the task to the best of your ability and work efficiently, a skill that your manager will appreciate.

2) Don’t be afraid to share your opinion! Your employers most likely hired you because of the way that your brain works and they want to see how you tackle problems. Expressing your ideas will help those around you to see that you are able to think for yourself and bring something new to the table – aspects that will demonstrate your potential to be an invaluable member of the workforce.

Get Bored – At times, you will be bored. This is a fact. Not all of the work you will be doing will interest you. As an intern, you may find yourself burdened with many small menial tasks too. Although you won’t enjoy them, get them done quickly without complaining. This will free up time for you to get involved in more things and demonstrate your willingness to work hard no matter what. There will also be times when you have nothing to do. This is when you should be proactive and ask your manager if there’s anything they need you to do, or even ask to get involved in something you’ve found interesting.

international internships

Cell Phone – TURN IT OFF. Nothing will look worse than you sitting at your desk on your phone all day. Many websites that you spend all day procrastinating on at university are likely to be blocked in your office anyway. Always try to be and, importantly, look busy!

Ignoring Advice – Listen attentively to any advice you are given while working no matter who is giving it. You are surrounded by people that have already been through all the steps you are going through now and will have invaluable knowledge to impart. This is most definitely a time when you should listen to your elders because it may help you secure that dream job.

Finish On Bad Terms – After your internship, you should always follow up. This includes writing thank you notes, adding your colleagues on LinkedIn, and maintaining these friendships. You never know when these connections could come in handy!

Be sure not to make these easy mistakes and you’ll be fine!

Photo 1. based on Giphy 6

Photo 2. based on Boredom, by T.J. Lentz, CC BY-SA 2.0

Photos and blog by John Monahan

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The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!