Like, duh! Ten Tips to Totally Rock Your Internship

Thinkstock Single Image SetYou got in the door! You landed that dream internship that will be a glowing addition to your resume. So now that you’re hired, don’t forget to try not to get fired.

Here are ten tips to keeping your internship…even excelling at it. This should be common sense, but I’m sad to report some people just don’t get it.

  1. Get in early and stay late. Obviously this must be done within reason assuming you have classes and homework to get to and maybe even a part-time job.
  2. Check your ego at the door. I’ve actually been told a story about an intern saying “I’ll pass,” when assigned a task. Are you kidding me?
  3. If I had a dime for every time I’m sure an intern has said “well, I’m not getting paid for this…” Well, you are getting credit and you should be learning valuable things that will help you further a career in this field. Get beyond that “unpaid dilemma.”
  4. Don’t swear in the office. It reflects poorly on you. That goes for raising your voice as well.
  5. LEARN THE NAMES OF THE PEOPLE WHO WORK AT THE BUSINESS YOU ARE INTERNING AT. I wish I could say I haven’t seen this happen…
  6. Don’t create a mess on or around your desk. Take your personal items home with you when you are finished with your day.
  7. Don’t sigh loudly. You can be heard. That goes for rolling eyes as well. They are seen.
  8. If the internship didn’t go so well and you were let go before expected, do not ask for a letter of recommendation.
  9. Leave your personal life out of the office. No explanation needed.
  10. If you are given the opportunity to go to a client event, visit a TV studio (at 6:00 a.m. — it happened to me when I interned), take a seminar class with the staff or any neat, new activity, jump on it!

Oh, and 10.5 – send a handwritten thank you card or e-mail when you finish your internship.

You are now armed with ten tips to not get fired from your internship…or receive a very poor evaluation with no reference. Go get ‘em tiger!

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  • jeffespo

    Kate this is a great post. Six-nine could also be applied in most jobs as well.

  • jersey74

    How about don't text ALL DAY LONG. And i don't mind if you check your Facebook once in a while (hey, we all do it) but i don't want to see it up every time i walk by. That will only prove to me that you have no common sense when it comes to the work place.

  • All great points Kate-
    Many of them are what you'd think are common sense but I've also run into these a number of times with interns (other staff too but especially interns.)

    As it turns out, some interns that many guess will be the high-achievers crash and burn for a number of reasons noted here (especially #2 in my experience) while people that come in and put in great effort pass right by them. Attitude and a desire to learn are actually more important in my opinion. Skills can be taught but trying hard and listening are expected at this level.

  • stephmajercik

    Great post Kate! It is sad that a list like this even has to be written since pretty much everything on here is common sense, but some people just don't get it!

  • Great tips, Kate! A point I would like to bring up about tip #2: If you have already accepted a good number of tasks, and you're workload is full, then it is ok to pass. If this is the case, make sure you explain the situation to the person, and don't just say “I'll pass on that…” or “No can do…”.

    I also have a question about this tip: What if the internship supervisor wants the intern to do a task that a) Does not fall under the responsibilities and description of the internship and b) The intern finds embarrassing. Even if the intern has the time to complete the task, is the intern in the wrong if he/she says “no thank you”?

  • Great post. Not just for interns but full-time workers too 🙂

    The internshipi program that we run in my shop has been a great boon for the firm. That said, you still run into a few bad apples. The thing I'd stress to younger folks is HUMILITY. No one likes arrogance anytime but it can be particularly irksome when it comes from someone who has not been around the block.

    I'd also say to people, if you have the choice about where you do your internship make sure you think long and hard about it. Asking a few simple questions can be of great help. This cursory list may be of use in that regard:

    Take care!

  • Hey Rich,

    In any situation where an intern/employee is rather uncomfortable I'd suggest passing and explain the reason. But as far as it “not falling under the responsibilities and description of the internship” I'd have to say accept. We have to work from the ground up. When I interned (where I currently work) I was asked to put together galley mailings of 100 books and send them out in the afternoon. It was tedious and annoying but I think it showed I was willing to assist my mentor and make her job a little easier.

  • I see what you're saying, Christina. Tasks are usually going to come to interns that don't necessarily fall under the title of “PR,” “communications,” or what ever area the internship is in. I agree that interns should accept these tasks because it not only shows drive, but it can help interns learn about different aspects of the organization/company. The tedious and annoying are necessary, and are a part of every job out there. Your example of working to assist your mentor and make her job easier is a great way of looking at it.

  • We walk a fine line with texting. For instance, I'm on my personal phone for work all the time and some of it entails texting (oh, how the world has changed), but I'm still doing company work. Interns here however don't get assigned to do something that would require texting. Put the phone away and show committment in the few hours you are in each day (hi, we as full-timers live at work, ha!). Thanks for your addition!

  • Yes! I give all the credit it in the world to those who try, try again and keep on trying 🙂 Effort and committment mean the world to me above skills that can be taught…especially for those still in college.

  • Thanks Rich! I appreciate your input! Totally agree with you that when an intern has taken on one too many tasks, better to be honest with an advisor so as not to make careless mistakes. But the explanation is important. “I'll pass” doesn't cut it.

    You raise a good point too…I feel like there are internships out there that use and abuse interns for sure (unfortunately). The “free labor” ones. I think where my point re: “I'll pass” is that we far too often find those who aren't willing to do the work rather than the hard workers who are at an internship that might have been essentially deceiving. Long, unpaid hours getting coffee and running errands or other high demands the employer was not clear and upfront with. In the case where a student is overwhelmed or feels embarrassed, students should absolutely speak to a mentor or career advisor with their school and sort the situation out. They are aiming to learn, not be worked to the bone or exploited.

  • Yes! I thought I was the coolest thing since sliced bread when I graduated with my PR degree. Ha! Little did I know. I always say that ego gets in the way of productivity. Humility will take you far in life. Thanks for the comment and for sharing the link!

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