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  • Writer's pictureAlec Green

Six Common Mistakes Interns Make (and How to Avoid Them)

If you’re applying for an internship, we've got some tips to help you make the most of your internship experience. Whether it's your first or fifth, one thing is for sure: every intern has made mistakes. We all have! But fear not- we're here to share with you what those mistakes were so you can avoid making them in the future.

1. Failing to ask questions

It's a common misconception that all interns are supposed to be quiet and obedient. Some people think that you're only supposed to follow directions, sit at your desk, and keep your mouth shut unless spoken too. In reality, there is so much more involved with being an intern than just blindly following orders. Internships should be about learning as much as possible from your co-workers while also helping out around the office when necessary. This means not just sitting back and doing nothing but actually speaking up when you have questions or concerns!

2. Showing up late or unprepared to work

Most of us have been in a situation where we didn't get enough sleep, are late getting out the door, and end up being a few minutes late for work. That's okay - it happens to everyone. But what you want to avoid is showing up in the morning “just needing a few minutes to get started” or consistently showing up late. Get up early so you can hit the ground running! Leave earlier than normal for work so there's no chance of being stuck in traffic or taking too long at breakfast. Pack your lunch and snacks before bed so that way there's nothing left but coffee on the drive into work.

3. Not dressing for success

Every office is different and “business casual” can mean completely different things at different companies. Even if they say casual dress is fine, don’t go overboard. Save the flip flops and baggy shorts for the weekend. Look professional and well put together so people take you seriously. When in doubt, remember the adage “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

4. Not networking or building relationships

Your internship isn’t just about your tasks and projects. Internships are one of the best ways to begin building out your professional network. Connect with as many people as you can at the company. Strike up conversations, schedule informal coffee chats or lunches. This will not only help you gain valuable contacts for future jobs, but it can also give insight into different companies and types of roles before committing to one upon graduation.

5. Being unprepared for meetings

When your boss invites you to a meeting, it’s an incredible opportunity to learn and shine. Even if your role at the meeting is just “to listen,” prepare as if you are the star of the show. Ask to review any presentations or relevant information about the meeting. Come up with questions ahead of time to ask during the meeting. Find out who's coming to the meeting so that you can prepare for their style or needs. Review any notes from previous conversations with them so that you can follow along. You will learn so much more and, even if you don’t say anything, your boss will notice the initiative you took to be prepared.

6. Overcommitting yourself and taking on too many projects

If you're a first-time summer intern, you may feel pressure to take on as much work as possible. However, it's important to not overcommit yourself and have a healthy balance of work and downtime. Make sure you have a clear understanding from your manager of how to prioritize tasks by what is most important. Finally, get help from colleagues when needed. There will always be more ways you can contribute if you finish all your projects. Remember quality over quantity!

Internships are a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills and build out your resume. But because you're learning, you're inevitably going to make mistakes, which is okay. This blog post provided 6 of the most common mistakes interns make and how you can avoid them. The truth is there are so many more that happen every day. Luckily for everyone who wants to excel at their next internship, we offer free courses on topics like interviewing skills, writing resumes, professional communication...and much more. Create your free account and earn your first free professional certificate today!


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