Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Internship Attitudes You Need to Ditch

In order to get the most out of your internship, you need to have the right attitude going in.  Even as an unpaid worker you still have basic human rights and you are getting paid with work experience that will be invaluable to you when you go to apply for a real job so stop your complaining.  Here are some attitudes you need to ditch before your first day.

Oh, it’s just a mandatory course requirement
Nothing in life is mandatory (except death and taxes).  Even if your internship is required by your college or university course, it still isn’t mandatory in the sense that you didn’t have a choice in the matter.  You chose your program for a reason and the fact that it had an work placement program might have been a key selling feature back when you didn’t have six term papers to write and a high score in Tetris Battle.  Treating your internship just like another course that you have to pass in order to graduate is not going to be helpful.  This is perhaps your first real glimpse at how your industry functions on a day-to-day basis and you need to recognize the opportunity for what it is; the chance to learn, participate and network.

It isn’t a real job…
[buzzer] Wrong. There might not be any money exchanging hands, but for all intents and purposes, your internship is a real job.  Although you might need a little bit of extra training and guidance at the beginning to get you started, expect your employer to treat you just like any other employee.  They did not just let you walk in the doors and start working.  Chances are that they selected you from a pile of resumes, interviewed you, saw some glimmer of potential and offered you the position complete with a confidentiality agreement, HR department and a work space that included a few company branded pens.  Therefore, if you show up late, bad mouth your senior staff members, dress like a slob and miss deadlines, you can also expect to be shown the door.  Your internship is one impressed manager away from being a “real” job so that means treating it as such.

I am just the intern; all I do is get the coffee.
I don’t think I ever got coffee for anyone over the course of any of my internships.  In fact, they offered to bring me coffee.  If you belittle your role and expect to be nothing more than your supervisor’s personal lackey, then chances are that is all you will be.  It is true, that as an intern you will probably be handed more grunt work than you would like but that is a fact of life that you need to get over.  You don’t have the experience to be put in charge of a major account nor have you paid your dues yet in order to get them to trust you with high stakes projects.  You are not going to own the place when you walk in the door on your first day.  Prove that you are reliable, hard working and speak up to let them know that you have good ideas and in time you will earn the respect and recognition that you want and perhaps even a job to boot.

Have you caught onto the trend here?  Your internship is not a jail term, just another school requirement and definitely not a place to slack off.  You are there to learn and make a good impression on your colleagues.  Be professional with both your clothing and mannerisms.  Be open to learning from anyone.  Speak up, be heard and get involved with every aspect of the company.  

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