4 ways to waste your internship

Posted by Amanda Augustine

July 29, 2013 @ 02:45 PM

Avoid these mistakes to make the most of your internship.

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Internships are an essential part of every student’s college career. They can clarify job goals, build resume experience and grow a network of professional contacts – all of which will help you land full-time work after graduation.

However, landing the internship is only half the battle. How you approach the opportunity and perform your tasks will determine your success. Avoid these four mistakes to get the most out of your internship this summer.

“It’s just a part-time job.”

Don’t treat your internship as just another paycheck. Internships are a great way to explore potential career paths while adding relevant experience to your resume and growing your professional network. Maximize this opportunity to set your future career on the right track. Additionally, internships often turn into job leads or full-time employment after graduation.

“I’m just an intern.”

Being the youngest or least experienced person in the office does not give you permission to act unprofessionally. Pay attention to how your colleagues dress for the office – especially on casual days or “summer Fridays” and follow suit. Keep your written communication professional and save personal emails for your personal email address. Limit your Facebook and Twitter surfing to lunch time or during your commute.

“It's just busy work.”

Whether you’re taking notes in a department-wide meeting or organizing files in the back office, your internship can be a valuable learning opportunity, when properly utilized. Keep your eyes and ears alert and ask lots of questions. There’s no better way to get the inside scoop on a career path than to observe professionals in the field. While you may not be delivering the sales pitch to clients, you can learn a lot by helping with the research or participating in the meeting, even silently.

“They’re just my colleagues.”

You don’t have to become friends with all your co-workers, but you should make an effort to get to know them and what they do at the organization. Introduce yourself to those around you. Don’t be afraid to invite a colleague for lunch or a cup of coffee. Remember, this is the start of your professional network. The people you meet during your internship may become valuable sources for references, job leads or even mentors during your future job search. 

If you’re approaching your internship as anything less than a real opportunity, you’re wasting the experience.  It’s not too late to turn your summer internship into a success.  Use these tips to make the most of your position and benefit your future career.

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Amanda Augustine is the Job Search Expert for TheLadders. She provides job search and career guidance for professionals looking to make their next career move. Have a question for Amanda? Submit your question here for a chance to have it answered in her weekly column, and be sure to follow her at @JobSearchAmanda on Twitter and “Like” her on Facebook for up-to-the-minute job-search advice.

Topics: Ask Amanda, New to the Workforce, Professional Development