Common Mistakes Interns Make (and how to avoid them)

Common Mistakes Interns Make (and how to avoid them)

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Since an internship is likely to be your first exposure to the world of work or your first time in a professional environment, it’s easy to slip up. We all make mistakes and you’re bound to make a few – what’s important is that you learn from them. To help, the Intern Asia team has put together a list of the 8 most common mistakes interns make and how to avoid them:

  1. Being Unprofessional

avoinding mistakes in internshipFirst impressions count and if you set a bad one, you’ll harm your reputation. When entering a professional environment, it’s important you are punctual and dress the part; turn up on time, wear smart business attire, appropriate footwear and cover up. It’s best to play it safe and dress smartly on the first day. Remember, it’s far easier to dress down after your first day than it is to erase a bad first impression.

You’ll probably be nervous when heading in for your first day. It’s important you don’t let your nerves prevent you from being polite, or showing an interest in or enthusiasm for your role. Be sure to smile, introduce yourself and show respect to your new colleagues. Failure to do so could damage your reputation in the office and taint your experience. Similarly, always write emails in a professional manner; avoid using slang, text talk and informal words and always proofread for mistakes. If you’ve never had experience writing professional emails, make sure to ask for advice from your supervisor.

Some interns fall into the trap of oversharing information about their personal lives with a colleague they feel comfortable around. Be careful not to mention a crazy night out at the weekend, or what you think of so-and-so, because word can spread, and give you a bad reputation.

  1. Being afraid to ask questions

As an intern who’s likely new to the sector, you may feel reluctant to ask questions for fear of irritating your supervisor. Not asking questions or double-checking instructions if you’re unsure is a huge mistake that could end up costing you in the long-run.

Employers know that interns are there to learn and probably need a more detailed explanation than full-time employees, at least at the beginning. Your supervisor will far rather you ask them to explain again than be given a piece of work that doesn’t meet their expectations. Not only does this waste time, it could also land your supervisor in trouble. If you’re not sure, ask.

  1. Not being proactive

Though asking for clarification if unsure about something is encouraged, you should refrain from running to your supervisor every time you’re stuck. Your manager is likely very busy, and you won’t always be at the forefront of their mind. Quite often, questions can be answered through a quick internet search, or by taking the time to think things through. Many interns are quick to ask their supervisor for help on something they could have figured out themselves had they given it a bit of time.

Depending on the sector you’re working in, you may find that from time to time the work dries up and you don’t have much to do. If this happens, be careful not to continuously pester your supervisor for tasks. Instead, use your initiative and look for things you can busy yourself with. This will be noticed and appreciated by your employer. If you’re really struggling to find things to do, approach your colleagues and ask if you can help them with anything. Not only will this show your willingness to go above and beyond, but it will also enable you to speak to other people, work on different projects and give you a broader understanding of how the company works.

  1. Not taking it seriously

dresscode internshipInternships provide a fantastic opportunity to develop both professionally and personally and are therefore often highly competitive. If you’ve been offered a position, it’s important you turn up fully prepared. This includes doing research on the company, making sure you fully understand your role and taking a notepad and pen to record what you learn.

Interns are often given a variety of projects ranging in size and importance, so you’re sure to receive some less interesting tasks to complete. It’s important to realise that this is normal in the working world and that you should do as you are asked. In the event you feel uncomfortable working on a task, politely explain your concerns to your supervisor. You should never act as though something is below you, as this could cause great offense to your colleagues and harm your relationship with them.

  1. Focusing too much on the job

Doing an internship in the hope of later being offered a full-time job is a good motivator to work hard. However, you should be careful not to focus exclusively on your end goal, because by doing so you’re missing out on a valuable internship experience. By concentrating solely on the end of the internship, you’ll learn less, won’t get to know your colleagues as well, and may ultimately fail to fulfil your role as an intern, making a job offer less likely.

Instead, focus on the task at hand and complete that to the best of your ability. Remember to enjoy your time as an intern. After all, this is a valuable experience that will help with any future interviews and applications if you make the most of it. Read our article on How to get Hired After your Internship for more advice.

  1. Not building relationships

If you are one of many interns at your company, it can be tempting to stay within your circle and avoid speaking to anyone else. This is a big mistake that could cause you to miss out on gaining useful business contacts. It’s likely your colleagues will be interested in you and willing to share their knowledge and experience. Stepping out of your comfort zone and making the effort to speak to other members of the team will benefit you no end and make you stand out as someone who is keen to get involved with the company.

Even if you aren’t interested in applying for a full-time position following the internship, you should still establish good relationships with your supervisor and colleagues. You never know when these contacts may come in useful in the future!

  1. Not taking feedback on board

internship feedbackIf your internship is your first experience of the professional world, you are likely to make a few mistakes. The experience is about learning and developing new skills and your supervisor will be prepared to take time out of their busy schedule to give you feedback. This will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, improve your performance and develop your skills. Remember it’s not personal- your supervisor wants you to succeed. Failing to improve once given feedback is a sure-fire sign to employers that you aren’t the candidate they’re looking for, so be sure to take it on board and take measures to improve your performance.

You should always listen carefully to advice, feedback and instruction. It’s a good idea to note things down if you’re unlikely to remember them, to make sure you don’t ask the same question twice. Failure to listen will annoy people and give the impression that you don’t care about the job, appreciate their help or work well in a team.

  1. Complaining

Finding the best internship for you isn’t always easy, and you might find that your internship does not quite live up to your expectations. If this happens, it’s important to remember that it’s still a valuable experience from which you can gain a lot. Whether or not you can see yourself starting a career in that industry, it’s good to give it your all and build yourself a good reputation. Always try to persevere with the job, as you never know where the placement may lead. If

If you are particularly unhappy with a certain aspect of your internship, or the way you are being managed, speak to your supervisor about it as soon as possible. It will reflect badly on you if you bottle up your frustrations and wait until it’s too late to address your concerns, or if you do so in an aggressive or unfriendly manner. Often, problems come down to a misunderstanding and can be easily resolved, so it’s best to address them sooner rather than later in a professional way. Doing this will help improve your experience and leave a good impression. 

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