7 Treacherous Intern Pitfalls You Must Avoid

By Billy J. Clanton| May 23, 2017

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You already know you’ll be the run-around person of the office, at least for a while. But that doesn’t mean you want your co-workers to forget you—or remember you for the wrong reasons.

Avoiding these 7 treacherous pitfalls can make your internship more worthwhile than a footnote on your resume.

Your goal should be to learn as much as you can and to support the company who gave you a chance. You want to land your dream job once this is all over, right? (By all means, if you’re happy at the bottom of interoffice food chain, please ignore the advice you see below.)

#1. Not doing what you’re told

Not everyone follows the rules, but this is not the time to go totally rogue. Before you get creative with new projects, first do what is expected of you. Complete assignments on time and of course, always do your absolute best.

#2. Being a copycat

If Suzy is sitting around the break room, don’t assume you can too. Avoid the pitfall of thinking what others do will work for you (and probably avoid Suzy, too).

Develop a work ethic of your own.

 

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#3. Sitting there looking bored

Do something! Sorry, folks. If you want to be recognized for hard work, you actually need to do some hard work. If you’re sitting there looking bored, or worse, fall asleep (yes, it happened) because you have nothing to do, seek something out! No texting, Instagramming or other non-work related amusements.

Your supervisor may be so busy they just didn’t get to you. Ask for the best way to contact them so you know they will get your messages. Let them know you completed the assignment you were given and ask how you can help elsewhere.

You won’t get very far in the job if you don’t grab life by the horns. Get out there, ask others what you can do, be proactive.

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#4. Keeping too much to yourself

Getting ahead is still about who you know.

Make a point of getting to know the other people around the office. You might find a friend or two, or better – a mentor! This person can help you out now, and can be an ally in the future.

We’re not suggesting that being fake is a good thing. But where your career is concerned, it pays to form strategic relationships. You never know when you’ll need to call in that favor, ask for a referral or a contact person in the future, so earn your points now. Be genuine and helpful. Even other interns may turn out to work in a place you’d love to work in later in life. Build your network.

Read more about networking with anyone in DC

Intern Pitfalls

#5. Getting involved in office politics

Workplace politics are a thing. Gossiping about others and getting sucked into office drama is to be avoided like the plague. It will never ever turn out right for you.

#6. Going completely overboard

In most cases, take the path of least resistance; that trail has already been blazed. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak up and add your own ideas. Just don’t take a hard line if you are met with resistance—go gently.

It isn’t necessary to go on a crusade about a new way of doing spreadsheets. (see point 1)

When it comes to most internships, the goal is to get out of there at the end of the year with your sanity still intact. Use this as an opportunity to learn and grow, and make your mark on the world later in your career (when it is more appropriate and people take you more seriously).

Read our post on how to have an amazing time in DC: an intern guide

#7. Acting like a diva

Millennials have a bad rap for having an attitude of privilege. Don’t be that person.

You are there to learn and to serve. Never blame anyone else when things go wrong. Taking responsibility (not blame) is a sign of maturity and self esteem. Do whatever it takes to make it right. You’ll earn respect, not scorn that way.

Your internship has the potential to be your most memorable year yever, and you have the power to make it an altogether positive experience. Don’t squander your chance to lay a solid foundation for your future. Avoid these 7 treacherous pitfalls, and you will get the most out of your intern experience.

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