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by Rob Porter | June 06, 2024


Internships are a great opportunity to learn and develop new skills, make lasting network connections, and gain hands-on experience in your field. Your performance during an internship could put you on the fast track to a full-time role with the company, or it may help to set you apart from other candidates during a job search. In any case, it’s important to put your best foot forward and get the most out of an internship. Here are some common internship mistakes to avoid.

Not Doing Research

Starting from the application process and going all the way through the end of the program, you should treat your internship as you would a full-time job. This includes conducting research into the companies you’re applying to. The worst thing you could do is blindly apply to internships and go on an interview without any prior knowledge of a company’s products, offerings, or mission and core values. In another scenario, you made it past the interview only to show up on your first day having no idea what the company does.

The best way to learn about a company is to review its website and social media profiles. Typically, a company will feature an “about” section on its website that details its mission and core values, as well as any other initiatives such as charitable endeavors or diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Next, try to learn as much as you can about the company’s history, as well as its products and services. By checking out a company’s social media profiles, you may be able to get a good read on its workplace culture, as companies often like to share information about team building exercises and other similar activities in their posts.

Keeping to Yourself

One of the greatest benefits of an internship program is the opportunity to build lasting network connections. Of course, in order to make network connections, you’ll have to do your best to strike up conversations with fellow interns and your managers. This can be particularly challenging for introverts, so it’s important to figure out how to approach others in a way that’s comfortable for you if this is the case.

If you fail to interact with others during your internship, you’ll not only be losing out on professional development and networking opportunities, but you might hurt your chances at getting a direct path to a full-time position at the end of the program. If your manager observes you working alone or avoiding contact with other interns, they might think you’re uninterested in the program or your work. In certain cases, it might make you seem standoffish.

Refusing to Complete Certain Tasks

When applying for internships, you probably took note of all the job descriptions and the potential tasks and responsibilities detailed in them. For the most part, you’ll be expected to complete the tasks included in an internship job description; however, you might also be asked to take on additional tasks such as cleaning up conference rooms, setting up meetings, or even getting coffee.

These types of tasks are a fact of life in the workplace, and the way in which you handle them will reveal a lot about your personality. During an internship and throughout the early years of your career, you may be required to take on additional tasks that aren’t necessarily part of your job description. Try to see such tasks as an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to collaborate with others, and learn to take pride in even the most mundane tasks early on—your managers will notice your enthusiasm.

Not Seeking Feedback

Internships are all about gaining hands-on experience in your field, while also developing valuable skills that will serve you throughout your career. In an academic setting, you’d often receive feedback on your performance in the form of grades and report cards, but the professional world is a bit different. Typically, interns will receive a performance review of some kind at the end of the program, but it’s important that you regularly seek feedback from your managers. You may do this by scheduling time to speak with your manager, or by asking questions throughout the duration of a project.

By seeking feedback, you’ll be demonstrating your interest in your work, your eagerness to learn, and your drive to succeed. Remember, without proper feedback it can be difficult to determine whether you’re on the right track, so don’t be afraid to ask. If you make a mistake or your manager describes an area in which you need to improve, do your best to apply that feedback to your work in the future. If you fail to seek feedback during your internship, you may seem as though you’re uninterested in the work or you lack motivation.

Not Taking the Initiative

Whether there’s a direct path to full-time employment at the end of the internship program or not, do your best to take the initiative whenever possible. This will show your manager that you’re driven, motivated, and capable of leading others to succeed. These qualities will help set you apart from other candidates when it comes time to apply for jobs, and if there is a direct path to a full-time role at the conclusion of the internship, you’ll be distinguishing yourself as a great fit.

Taking the initiative can be scary, but in this situation it’s more about whether you’re willing to do so rather than your rate of success. Stepping outside of your comfort zone will make you stand out even if you make a mistake, and all managers love employees who aren’t afraid to step up despite their fears. Try to see your internship as a learning experience, and use the opportunity to take chances and put yourself to the test.