Here at DEVENEY, our team has had some truly wonderful people work in our Associate program over the years. Naturally, some people are challenged with the transition from college into an internship. As a recent graduate, I’ve seen a lot of friends head to internships. Let me tell you, some have gone well; some not so much. Here are the most common mistakes, courtesy of a recent alumnus:
Showing Up Hungover
Yes, this one sounds obvious, but it happens. People discover a new city, make new friends and hit the town. After being on their best behavior for the first few weeks, they go out on a Thursday night, just like they did in school, and they wake up Friday morning with a splitting headache.
They struggle on into work at 9:12 a.m., thinking that no one can tell. Trust me, they know. And they’re not impressed. Oh yeah, and if you do go out, make sure to scrub the bar stamp off your hand before you get to the office the next day; it’s not a good look.
Thinking You Know Everything
You’ve learned a lot in your classes. Maybe (hopefully!) you’ve had some leadership experience and some prior work experience. You feel like you get it. You made good grades in school, after all. It’s one thing to feel confident; it’s another to be ignorantly proud. I’ve learned so much in my internships and work that I was never taught in the classroom. The same will happen to you. Embrace it. Take every opportunity to ask for feedback and to learn along the way.
Not Admitting Your Mistakes
So you messed up. It happens, especially for interns. Yeah, I’m sure you’ve got a great reason for it. Maybe you showed up late because of traffic. Maybe you didn’t really understand how the copier works. Maybe you forgot to do that assignment your boss casually mentioned last week.
Whatever happened, own up to it. Acknowledge that you should have done a better job and follow up by pointing out how you’ll make sure to correct that error in the future.
Example: “I’m so sorry; I completely forgot to send out the media advisory yesterday. That’s completely on me. I went ahead and distributed it first thing this morning and called the media to ensure they’d received it. In the future, I’ll add all of my assignments in my planner to make sure this doesn’t happen again.” Don’t be afraid to fail; you are an intern after all. It’s expected. Just show your character and demonstrate how you’ll grow from your mistakes. And then please don’t forget to actually do that.
Taking Constructive Criticism Personally
As an intern, you’re going to receive some negative feedback. Maybe your press release was poorly written, or perhaps your boss was unsatisfied with your spreadsheets and wants you to redo them. It hurts a little. Nobody likes to feel like they’re bad at something they’re passionate about. But, it happens. And when it does, use the opportunity to learn instead of getting defensive.
You’re not expected to be perfect. But you are expected to learn from your mistakes. Maybe you need to practice your skills a little off the clock to keep up with the office’s pace. Whatever it is, be humble, patient and be willing to grow. Take every piece of feedback as a way for you to showcase your talents in the future.
Not Knowing Why You’re There
Are you trying to get a sweet letter of recommendation? A full-time job? The money? Consider that; and consider how hard you’re working. If you want to succeed in this field, you’ll need to outwork not only the other interns but also your fellow employees. Follow the company’s policies. Find out what your boss cares about; make that your pet project. This is, essentially, an audition. And you’ll need to work hard to stand out in this field. Good luck.
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