Tips For Interns: Dos and Don’ts


September marks the beginning of the school year and also peak season for internship applications. For many companies, it is the perfect time to look for college students who are willing to balance their studies with some work experience and get a taste of what joining the labour market is really like. And the truth is that internships are the best way to gain experience, see what interests you and what doesn’t and a great opportunity to make connections for the future. So, following are some tips for interns that are looking for their first ever internship.

Here’s what to do and what not to do in an internship:

Advice for future interns: when looking for an internship...

DON’T expect to get paid. Look at your work experience as a learning opportunity and as a tool to help you discover what you like, what is the career path you want to explore after you graduate, etc. Few companies will pay their interns, and whilst that shouldn’t be the case at all, if you are not paid consider yourself lucky and blessed to be surrounded by working professionals. Because by interning you will be gaining knowledge of your field and also how to act in a professional meeting, in the office, work in a team, etc. Something college can’t teach you.

DO write an exceptional motivation letter. This is truly one of the best tips for interns I can give you. Because you most likely won’t be able to fill your CV with a lot of experience, the most important part of your application will be how you present yourself in your cover letter. Employers already expect college applicants to not have any work experience, so they look for the applicant that wants the position the most and stands out amongst others. So be creative, charming and make sure you ‘wow’ your employer in your interview!

DON’T lie on your application. For example, don’t say you know how to use Photoshop when you don’t, or don’t say you are fluent in German when you’re really not. It can be very tempting to boost your CV because we want to be the number one applicant for that position and the more things we know the better, right? Well, yes. But if you lie, sooner or later your employer will find out, so it’s better to find a position that fits better with what you know and can do.

When you land the job… make the most of your internship!

DO expect to be treated like a professional. Even if it is not a ‘real job’, when you’re interning for a company you’re still working for them and you’re still part of the team. So no matter what your job is or how many hours a day you’re in the office, make sure to dress appropriately and be on time. Also, being young and inexperienced does not give you the right to go on social media in the middle of your shift! So a piece of internship advice for students is to avoid going into your internship with the wrong mindset. After all, it is still a job and you still have a whole team counting on you.

DON’T be scared to ask questions. Believe it or not, your employer knows you’re an intern and that you won’t know everything right off the bat! At the end of the day, you’re an intern and you’re there to learn and expand your knowledge, so no one expects you to carry out your task perfectly, or expect you to know how to use a program, tool, etc. Therefore, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Actually, one of the best tips for interns that I can give you is to ask as many questions as you can. After all, you’re at that moment of your life where you’re not expected to know everything and it’s ok to mess things up.

DO seek feedback. A huge piece of advice for interns is to ask for feedback and get someone to review your work. Moreover, it is even a good idea to ask for feedback before sending out a formal email or before giving a presentation, to make sure you’re coming across as professional as you can. I’m most cases, college won’t teach you these things, and the only way to learn and get better is by asking for help in a work environment.

Tips for interns after the internship

DO try and keep in touch with your co-workers. One of the most fruitful networking tip for interns is to reach out to former co-workers and employers because they might be able to offer you a recommendation or a job position. So add them on LinkedIn and Facebook and stay in touch with them by sharing milestones, work projects, interesting articles with them.

DON'T burn bridges after your internship ends. Even if your internship wasn’t what you expected or your employer wasn’t the nicest person to be around, end your internship on good terms. Like I previously mentioned, the people you’ve worked with can help you land your next job. Either by giving you a reference or by recommending you to another company. So be polite and let them know you’re thankful you got the opportunity to intern in the company.

Keep reading: 4 Key Networking Hacks for Introverts

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