So you got that internship lined up for the spring semester? I’m going to outline some internship don’ts that I learned during my prior internship experience that you should consider before showing up for your first day.
Avoid the following:
- Being late: Just like an interview, you want to arrive ready to work about 10-15 minutes early every day to make/sustain a good impression and communicate that you are eager to work. Try not to arrive too early either, or you might be stuck waiting outside locked doors until someone arrives to let you in (personal experience).
- Falling asleep during meetings: You’d think this would go without saying, right? Well, during my internship in Washington D.C., I had a co-intern who did fall asleep on multiple occasions, both during legislative briefings as well as during a group informational interview with a higher-up. Make sure you are well rested and spry on a daily basis during your internship. Remember you are trying to lock-in on a job you do not have yet, so best foot forward!
- Avoiding opportunities: It might seem counter-intuitive to actively volunteer for even the most menial tasks, but by being enthusiastic and opting for the grunt work, you will stand out more and potentially be offered more meaningful tasks. I’ve learned from my experience in a congressional office that even a senator’s office is structured from the bottom up in a supporting hierarchy. Don’t underestimate the importance of grunt work!
- Not dressing appropriately: It is important to look your best for work, especially if you are working with others (which is pretty much most jobs). This is particularly important as an intern, because you want to make a lasting impression for your employer and you don’t want that impression to be that you are a slob. Our Pinterest boards can give you some great ideas for how to dress for success. Men. Women.
- Not cooperating with your co-interns: Even though you might be competing with them for a job, it is important to work well with other interns. This is an opportunity to show how well you work with others, so acting selfishly can cast a disapproving facet onto you.
- Ignoring an extra-work invitation: During my internship, I was offered multiple networking and event opportunities beyond my office work and even though I attended most of them, I still regret having missed even one of them. Sometimes you don’t realize the opportunities you miss until after you’ve missed them, so it is important to try and participate in everything you can. These types of out-of-office events can be a great chance to network with others in the industry or even get to know your co-workers in a more casual setting.
- Complaining: My final tip to you is this; do not complain about your internship at all, not even outside of the job. Complacency makes you and your employer look bad and you don’t want to be the one who loses an opportunity because you couldn’t be positive. I worked with a co-intern who complained about his hours and co-workers while working on the Hill and eventually he was forced to reapply to a new office. Moral of the story; don’t complain.
If you follow these tips, you should have a wonderful experience with your internship. Just remember that interning is a learning experience and if anything, it will help you realize if you want to work in that field. I know I personally decided to not continue in politics after my experience, not because I didn’t learn from it, but because I knew I wouldn’t want to do it in the long run. Keeping this in mind, for those of you interning this Spring, good luck and I will be posting about my upcoming internship as well!