Ever faced the jitters when thinking of starting as an intern? Gone are the days when interns were hired, only to be disappointed with menial tasks like making coffees and ending up with no useful experiences. Nowadays, internships are necessary to build professional skills and help you with a smoother transition from an academic to a workplace environment. It also gives you hands-on experience before starting a real job. Fortunately (and hopefully), this article will break down some universal DO’s and DON’Ts that I accrued during my internship and will help you save some embarrassment to make a good impression. Whether you are already interning, will start an internship or thinking of doing one, this is for YOU. So here we go!
AT A GLANCE
1. Always arrive on time
2. Do not use personal social media platforms on a work desktop
3. Ask many questions
4. Discuss if something is bothering you with your mentors
5. Re-read documents, instructions, password/usernames, contracts that are given to you carefully
6. Inform your mentors about schedule changes prior (holidays, absence, day/time changes, etc)
7. Learning new skills take time. Have patience
8. Do not expect to be perfect while learning new tasks
9. When given projects, always ask for deadlines and/or results expected
1. Always arrive on time.
If you are late because your Starbucks coffee wasn’t quick enough, that is no excuse. Nor is traffic. Respecting time is the first and foremost principle in making a good impression. It delivers the fact that you respect the time that your mentor(s) are investing in you, and are disciplined to carry out the tasks seamlessly without any delays. (Thank you for lecturing me on this with patience, Kesley!)
2. Do not use personal social media platforms on a work desktop.
I am so embarrassed about this point since I made this mistake. It was my first office experience, and I took the liberty of using my social media apps on the laptop given by the company. PLEASE DON’T. It is such a simple thing to be understood, yet with digital habits becoming borderline obsessive, it is easy to fall into this trap. My mentors were polite and lovely to nudge me about using personal social media apps on the company issued laptop which is strictly meant to be used for work-related tasks. Use your mobile during free hours. I was fortunate to be told nicely, you may not be. So save yourself from that embarrassment!
3. Ask many questions.
At first, it is normal to feel overwhelmed by the pressure to give your best results. Unfortunately, you will face obstacles during your learning curve. You will stumble and feel lost with your work. Realise that an internship is an opportunity to learn, and learning can only be successful if you have clarity. Do not hesitate to ask questions or help. This can be tricky. Some mentors will encourage you to ask questions. In that case, it is great. Knowing what you can deliver and what is expected out of you – is the gap where you ask questions (hope that makes sense!). Meanwhile, make your questions worth their time. If you can find answers with a few clicks on Google, then do it. But if it is specific, ask your mentor. Those who are extremely busy and cannot deal with your queries frequently; my recommendation – write it down and ask when they are available to sort your queries. If not, you can schedule a meeting later, but you won’t forget your doubts. Asking other employees can also be helpful in this case. Dealing with a short-tempered mentor? Still, ask. It is better to get scolded for asking again than making a blunder, and then crying over spilt milk.
4. Discuss if something is bothering you with your mentors.
There is no point struggling in silence if something is bothering you. If you are feeling unwell or uncomfortable, miss out on something due to other engagements, or simply want to close the blinders due to blazing sunlight hitting your face – let your mentors know politely. Chances are, they will understand your situation and will lend you a helping hand if required.
5. Re-read documents, instructions, password/usernames, contracts that are given to you carefully.
Before I started my internship, I was given documents to read carefully and so many details were confidential. Reading prescribed documents thoroughly helps you in understanding your role as an intern in the company. It is also helpful when you understand the process beforehand and not waste too much time in finding information that was handed over to you earlier. If you don’t get written instructions or a manual, pay attention to what your mentors discuss with you.
6. Inform your mentors about schedule changes prior (holidays, absence, day/time changes, etc).
Discuss and set the days you can work. If you are studying and working part-time; sit down and block the days when you are not free. Find out days you can intern and tally it with your mentors. In case they require you to attend on days when you have classes or work, talk it out with your professor or manager to give you some guidance. Having a clear agenda makes things easier for everyone. In case you want to take holidays or have suddenly come up with work outside your internship, always send an email as soon as possible and let them know when you will be available. This way, they can adjust their tasks scheduled for you and you can concentrate on managing other things. Time management is crucial.
7. Learning new skills take time. Have patience.
Everyone is clueless about something until they invest their time and efforts to learn. With consistent practice, you can learn applications or work without needing external aids. But as a beginner, it’s easy to feel anxious when you are a newbie surrounded by professionals. Remember, all of them started as a novice. Plus, the learning pace may differ from person to person. Have patience while learning new skills and responsibilities.
8. Do not expect to be perfect while learning new tasks.
While assignments and exams can be graded, working requires you to keep learning continuously. With ever-changing skill requirements and evolving work ethics; focusing on doing a job perfectly will only cause you distress. Instead, do your job very well. Your tasks will be tenfold when you enter the workforce. So, channel your energy in improving your skillset. There is always room for improvement. In my opinion, perfection is overrated.
9. When given projects, always ask for deadlines and/or results expected.
One of the things I struggled with initially was understanding what was expected out of me. Though my mentors instructed me about tasks, I would work on it and ask my queries as I progressed. But what worked better for me was (my mentors realised it later too) – receiving an email about tasks or main objectives for the week almost a week before speeded up my work. It mentally prepared me how I would like to approach the tasks to be done. So when given projects or activities to complete, ask these two important questions if it has not been addressed- a) What is the result expected? 2) When is the deadline for the work given to you?
Now that I have explained to you nine lessons from my internship experience, I have nine more to add – so keep your eyes peeled for Part 2 soon.
Thank you so much for reading this post. Cheers!