What NOT to do at your Internship

29 01 2009

We are always told what we should do at internships. But what about the things we SHOULD NOT do ?  Some may think that it is common sense.  I don’t think so. It’s just as important to point out what you should NOT do as it is to point out what students SHOULD do.

This is the official Intern Queen list of what NOT to do at your internship

  • Do NOT break the dresscode. Even if you are comfortable at the company and see other employees wearing jeans or flipflops. Don’t dress down unless you are specifically instructed to do so by your internship coordinator/director.

  • Do NOT park in any spot but where you were assigned to park. The last thing you want is for a security official to have to track you down and have you move your car. You don’t want to block an executive in and be a burden to anyone.

  • Do NOT keep your cell phone on. Vibrate is not acceptable. Turn your cell phone completely off. Don’t even get caught pressing the IGNORE button. It should sit in your pocket or purse the entire day and not be touched unless you are on a break or lunch.

  • Stay away from surfing the net. Be as focused as you can at internship. Make sure you are not checking Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. Trust me, it is VERY awkward to get caught on there from your boss/internship coordinator.

  • Never sit around. Make sure you volunteer yourself when you aren’t doing anything. Many internship coordinators don’t realize that you have completed tasks. Take the initiative to approach them and see if they need help.

  • Try not to chew gum, use curse words, show up late, or anything that you would have been in trouble for in highschool.

  • Don’t interrupt. Being eager is a wonderful quality as an intern, but don’t interrupt people when they are speaking – even if to ask for help. Wait your turn.

  • Know your place. Let’s face it, as an intern, you are starting from the bottom. If important work related conversations are happening, take a step back. At least pretend like you aren’t listening and show the executives/boss your full respect. Don’t give your boss any “great” ideas unless he/she asks for them. Some people might take your ideas and brainstorming as you feeling “more entitled” than others.

  • Ask before you eat. Make sure you ask if it is ok to eat at your desk before just taking out your lunch and eating. Some companies are very sensitive about food around their computers.

  • Don’t give a half-effort. Make sure you complete every task to the fullest extent possible. You want to go above and beyond in order to stand out and for people to remember your name and your work.

  • Don’t give a “girly” handshake. Even women need to give firm handshakes whenever they meet new employees, clients, guests, etc. Firmly grip the other person’s hand. This automatically shows that you are a professional.

  • Don’t use only your first name. When introducing yourself to people, state your first and last name. You want everyone to remember you. This distinguishes you from other people with the same first name.

  • Always Ask. Make sure to ask questions. Even if you feel stupid, it is so much better to ask questions than to just do something wrong. Make sure you know what you are asking and that you are coming across clearly.

  • Make clear copies, don’t jam the printer, don’t spill the coffee, don’t mess up the coffee, don’t print on paper with holes unless you are instructed to, don’t use colored pens, don’t speak too loudly, don’t draw too  much attention to yourself with your personality or appearance.

I asked my Friends (tweeps) on Twitter what NO NOs they could think of for interning:

“What not to do? Troll facebook or myspace, text message all day long, sit with nothing to do – Take some initiative – ASK!” @Claudinerenee, Career Services Professional at Purdue University. 

“Don’t tell your supervisor how to do their job. Don’t hide mistakes.” @sweetcareers, Grace Kutney, Career Services Professional and Blogger, http://sweetcareers.blogspot.com/.

“Don’t think you can’t. Don’t say you can’t. Don’t act like you can’t. You can!” @panah, http://www.bloggingot.com/.

“Don’t just sit there. ask your manager, What can I be doing?” @applegirl, http://www.lovesfool.com/.

More Helpful Links

Quint Careers on Internship Dos and Don’ts : http://www.quintcareers.com/internship-dos-donts.html

FUNNY – Grey’s Anatomy on Internship Dos and Don’ts: http://blogs.abc.com/internsteve/2008/06/first-week-old.html

Monster Trak on Internship Dos and Don’ts: http://www.monstertrak.com/career-guide/college-internships/dos-and-donts

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One response

29 01 2009
Dr. Randall Hansen

Lauren… as always, some great advice for first-time interns… and thanks again to for providing a link to QuintCareers.com, where college students can also find all the tools to help them obtain the internship (like networking, resume writing, interviewing).

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