The Biggest Mistakes You Can Make as an Intern

Being an intern isn’t always easy — there can be some tough and grueling days, catty coworkers, and boring assignments. But, you’ll get out of it what you put into it. Take a look at some of the biggest mistakes you can make as an intern, and what you can do to avoid making them yourself!


Having poor attendance

Taking super long lunches, showing up late every day, and frequently calling out of work for no good reason is not going to look good to your supervisors, and they will notice. To them, it’ll seem like you aren’t really invested in the position, and it’ll also have an impact on the rest of the team.


The Solution If you have a habit of running late for things, try to wake up 10 minutes earlier or tell yourself that work starts earlier than it does. If you don’t like bringing a lunch, see if you can order in advance either online or through an app to save a few minutes instead of waiting in line. If you’re genuinely sick or have a family emergency, your supervisor will understand, but calling out to go to a sports game? Not a good idea.


Barely leaving your desk

A lot of what can make an internship great is the other people you work with, and when you spend the whole day isolating yourself at your desk you’ll be missing out on a lot of great opportunities to get to know the people around you, and also on seeing how the rest of the company is run and organized. Sitting at your desk all day can also lower your productivity levels!


The Solution Scientists have actually proven that it’s important to take breaks every so often, so make a point to take a few minutes every hour or so to grab some water and maybe take a mini lap around the office. You never know who you might run into!


Procrastinating doing your work

While it can be really important to know what Riverdale character you are based off of your pizza choices, work probably isn’t the place to find that out when you have other tasks and assignments you should be working on.


The Solution Nobody can stay focused all day every day. So instead of mindlessly scrolling Facebook and taking Buzzfeed quizzes when you’re meant to be working on a report, give yourself predetermined “break times” where after, say, 45 minutes of working you can take 5 minutes to go grab a snack and text your roommate about what you want to order from Seamless that night.


Not following company guidelines or policies

You know that multiple page document you got sent and signed after you accepted the position? The one you barely skimmed? That was the company handbook, and not following it can have some pretty severe consequences. Using your company computer to check Twitter, posting certain things on Instagram, and how you handle certain phone calls are all probably outlined in there, and you need to make sure that you’re following them.

The Solution Make sure to read the handbook, and not just skim it! Know what you’re going in to and make sure that if you have any questions about what is and isn’t allowed before you get started. “I didn’t know” isn’t going to be a good enough excuse if you get caught doing something that the handbook says isn’t allowed, so be sure to really read it before potentially messing up – even by accident.


Not talking to anyone

Knowing how to relate to people beyond the professional aspect is an important aspect of teamwork, and not taking the time to get to know people can make it harder to work together, beyond making work less fun. Moreover, just because someone isn’t in your department doesn’t mean that they don’t have something great to offer you, and you could find a mentor in a totally different department from where you are.

The Solution If you sit near someone, strike up a conversation as you’re leaving work together. Maybe ask the other interns if they want to get lunch together, or ask your supervisor if you can grab coffee one afternoon. Taking the initiative looks good to everyone, and maybe you’ll make a new friend out of it.


Not taking advantage of what they have to offer you

A lot of companies will offer discounts on workshops, or have training sessions. Some companies have discounts with other companies and businesses, too. These are all great perks for professional and personal development, and can be great opportunities and experiences for you. Not taking advantage of them can cause you to miss out on learning opportunities and chances to learn completely different skills that could help you in the future.

The Solution Find out what benefits your company has by looking online or asking your supervisor, and see which ones you’d be able to take advantage of. Most companies will have a spot on their intranet letting you know what sorts of discounts and opportunities are available to their employees, so check with your supervisor to be sure you’re eligible for them and then go for it!


Not appreciating your internship

Even if the job isn’t your favorite, there’s probably someone out there who would have called it their dream internship. Being grateful for what you have goes a long way.

The Solution If the internship isn’t quite what you thought it would be, make a list of 3 or 4 things that you do like about it, and try to focus on those. Keep the positive in mind and it’ll make the negative more bearable. Besides, remember that every internship has an end date so you’re only there for so long before you can try something new next time!


Not speaking up or asking for feedback

If something is bothering you and you don’t say something about it, you’re likely to build up resentment or hold a grudge. Moreover, if you don’t feel confident about something you’re doing or are feeling discouraged but haven’t told your supervisor, they won’t know how to fix it.

The Solution Don’t be afraid to speak up in meetings and share your ideas! If you don’t already, ask your supervisor if you can schedule a block of time every week or two to share feedback and work together to resolve any issues you might be experiencing. They want you to succeed, but they can’t help you do that if they don’t know.


Being unprofessional

Showing up to work in jeans when everyone else is wearing a suit, taking personal calls at your desk, and not taking meetings seriously can look really bad to your supervisors and the rest of the company, and can send them a message that you don’t care.

The Solution It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed. Wear a nice outfit your first day, and adjust from there based on what you observe everyone else wearing. Take note of how other people behave and act while on the clock – chances are if nobody else is doing it, it’s because it’s unprofessional.


Ghost your boss

The internship is over, you’ve walked out of the office for the last time, you have a promise of a referral, and that’s it. Not keeping in touch with your boss after the internship isn’t a good luck – it makes it seem as if you just wanted a recommendation and a bullet point on your resume, but that you don’t care about the rest of it.

The Solution While your boss probably doesn’t want or need to know what you had for dinner last night, it’s completely acceptable to periodically check in with them following your internship to keep them in the loop about what you’re doing. This will also help them should they be called on to write you a recommendation or provide a referral.

Overall, it’s pretty easy to make sure that what you’re doing on the job is okay so long as you pay attention, be respectful, and appreciate the opportunity you have. Have fun!


Ready to snag your next internship? Check out a ScholarJet competition here. Everyone who applies will be considered for a position with the company.