As a former intern and working with interns, I have identified several mistakes you definitely do not want to make when working with a new company:
Not Listening Powerfully Enough – When your supervisor is giving you instructions, it is important to listen very carefully to every detail. Interrupting, spacing off, and not writing things down will make your boss think you are a bad listener, because you probably are.
Not Writing Instructions Down – Training a new intern is costly for the company, because someone has to get paid to train you, and you have to be paid as well. The worst mistake you can make during training is not writing instructions down to refer to later. No one likes to repeat things twice or have to help you with the same thing that you forgot from before.
Not Asking Questions When You Don’t Understand Something – If you don’t 100% understand instructions, make sure you get clarification before beginning the task. You will probably have a lot of questions, and being an intern is the perfect time to ask them. If you miss something and are too shy to ask about it, then you are going to either waste time or end up doing something incorrectly.
Complaining About Menial Tasks – As an intern, you will probably do your fair share of making coffee, making photocopies, and sending faxes. Take on these tasks graciously, and eventually you will be given more interesting and involving tasks.
Writing Unprofessional Emails – As an intern, say goodbye to the personal text speak and hello to the formal professional language. Top mistakes in writing emails include not addressing the email to a name, signing without the company signature block, or being too wordy. Business emails are concise and to the point. If there is a shorter way to say something that is easier to understand, make it shorter. People in the business world don’t have time to read a rambling email. Sometimes, even just one sentence will do. Always ask your supervisor to read your emails before you send them out until you get familiar with them.
Making Other People Wrong – When a fellow employee, a client or supervisor makes a mistake, it is proper etiquette to not call them out on it in the sense of making them wrong. If someone didn’t reply to your email, don’t say they didn’t respond. Instead say, I never received a reply to your email, could you try sending it again.
Not Recording Notes During a Business Meeting – If you are lucky enough to sit in on a business meeting as an intern, know that you’re not there just to sit and watch. Make yourself useful by taking notes of what people said and processing the meeting minutes in a word document.
Being Disorganized – This is a big complaint from bosses about new interns. In college, organization is up to you. As long as you pass in assignments on time, you can be as sloppy as you want about your organization. Always make sure everything you work on gets filed at the end of the day. Even if it is a digital item, make sure it is in the right folder on your computer. Always keep your desk clear, except for tasks you are currently working on.
Not Paying Attention to Things That Don’t Concern You – Even if something doesn’t concern you, it is important to take mental note of. Why? Because even if it doesn’t involve you now, it could involve you later. Being an intern is a learning experience, and you should be particularly observant to how the business runs.
Not Staying in Contact With the Company After You Leave – If you lose contact with the company you worked for, you miss out on a major networking or employment opportunity later on. Check in with the company every so often if you go back to school. You never know if you’ll end up working there again.