Use common sense—What not to do during your internship

An example of what not to do during your internship.

An example of what not to do during your internship.

You’ve landed a college internship and are hoping that it will lead to a full-time job when you are done with school. Or maybe you are still looking for an internship? Be sure to stop by your college career office and do a little research. Consider getting involved with your school’s alumni network—the companies that former grads have landed at may have internship programs.

But the tricky part is turning that unpaid opportunity into paid employment. For that to happen, there are some common do’s and don’ts you should know. Read on for what not to do during college internships.

Ready for the real world?

Feeling less than confident about what awaits you in the workplace? Well you aren’t alone. Phaedra Brotherton wrote in the July 2013 issue of T&D2013 Grads Expect Employers to Develop Their Skills: A New Study Shows That Many Recent Graduates Don’t Feel College Was Enough, and Are Looking to Companies to Fill the Gap” on that very topic.

The article quoted a recent Accenture survey of 2013 graduates that found “66 percent believe they will need more training in addition to their degrees to get the job they want.”

Part of the answer may lie in college internships. The study agreed, and in its results encouraged employers to “Partner with educational institutions to develop work experience programs, such as internships and apprenticeships, and assist with developing the curriculum and creating customized training and industry certification programs.”

Internships—behind the scenes

Still not sure what to expect from your college internship? Unsure how to make the most of college internships so that you can land a job after graduation? Barry Lenson wrote “How to Use Internships to Jumpstart Your Career” for on February 21, 2012, with some additional advice.

Lenson explains that what work you will do during college internships largely depends on the company. He advises, “The best way to learn about the job content of an internship is to talk to someone from the company or, if possible, talk to some interns who have been in the company’s program before.”

His tips for getting positive notice and a real job are:

  • “Being willing to work long hours without complaining.
  • Refusing to “show off” by talking about everything that you learned in college. Quiet, hard work seems to count for more.
  • Fitting in with the company culture. If everyone at the company where you are interning wears conservative clothing, do that too. If they tend to be more casually dressed entrepreneur types, adopt that style too.”

Do’s and don’ts of your internship

Want to rise through the ranks and hopefully get your foot in the door? Then you have to behave a certain way and learn what not to do as an intern. Alison Green blogged on July 11, 2012, for U.S. News & World Report’s Money blog “Don’t Make These 10 Internships Mistakes.”

First, the don’ts:

1.  Don’t scoff at menial tasks.

2.  Don’t dress inappropriately.

3.  Don’t ignore the office culture.

4.  Don’t be too casual.

5.  Don’t segregate yourself with the other interns.

Then the do’s:

1.  Do ask for feedback.

2.  Do thank people who help you.

3.  Do pay attention, even when you aren’t involved.

4.  Do more listening than talking.

5.  Do keep in touch once your internship ends.

While some of these things may sound small or not a big deal, they all go a long way to showing you can not only do the work, but also fit in with the company and its way of doing things. Act like a professional, and with a little luck, you will soon be one!

Want to learn more about employment and the workplace? Check out Questia—particularly the section on the school-to-work transition

Have you made a mistake during an internship?  Let us know how you handled the situation in the comments.

8 replies
  1. Eugene Maddred says:

    Hi Ms. Gaylor. I thought your article was excellent and I wanted to get your permission to post a link to it on my website. Cutting Edgeucation seeks to helps students and their parents in their growth and development. One of our goals is to encourage students to seek internships, and to of course make the most of those opportunities, and your article provides critical information in doing that. Please let me know if its ok, and how you would like to be credited. Thank you. And all the best to you.

  2. Liliane Price says:

    I must say that I disagree with Lenson who suggests being willing to work long hours without complaining. This attitude discriminates against those with other responsibilities such as parenting, caring for the elderly or communiy work. My suggestion is to make the hours at work count. Pay attention, work hard and don’t waste time at work. However your life should always be balanced and focused on a bigger picture – just you and your internship.

  3. Luks says:

    Your article is very useful and I hope interns can do a lot better if armed with your suggestions. However, I am uncomfortable with your suggestion about working long ours and no complaints as it could give wrong impression that productivity at work the result of only long hours worked (hard labouring) than working smart and that all other responsibilities must suffer. Unfortunately, I should disagree there.


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