Monday, April 02, 2007

Top Five Internship Blunders

I’m a big supporter of student interns. In fact, I love ’em! These bright young guys and gals have been wonderful additions to our office, yes, you too Annette! I make room for at least two interns per year and so far I’ve hired each one after their formal training.

Still, after observing interns over the last decade, I’ve noticed some all-too-common mistakes that can easily be avoided.

These rookie errors can have a real negative impact on interns seeking full-time employment. Remember folks, an internship is like an eight-week interview: every impression counts and will be remembered.

Here are my Top Five Internship Blunders:

#5 - Calling in sick the day after a long weekend: This one is an all-time big no-no. You better have a limb falling off you or a massive Pitbull bite on your leg if you are calling in sick after a long weekend. No one back in the office wants to hear that you aren’t feeling well and, quite frankly, hardly anyone will believe you. It’s an unwritten rule in most corporate settings that you haul your ass into work after a three-day cottage drunk-fest. Put in your day at the office ... and then pass out at home if need be.

#4 - The party’s for you too, bonzo! If you are lucky enough to get a job where the company throws holiday or seasonal parties, make sure you attend. Don’t be a no-show ‘cause you have an Ashanti yoga class that night. Management hosts parties as a way to build corporate culture, blow off steam and celebrate successes. Not showing up reveals how little you want to be part of the firm. And when you get to the party, don’t wear the lampshade on your head, start a conga line to the toilets or partake in body-shots with your co-workers. Instead, take part in the conversation and the activities and you’ll get noticed as a great team player right from the start.

#3 - Keep the iPOD and IMing at home: You might think you are still working hard, but listening to Jay-Z through your ear buds or IMing your buddies is frowned upon by most corporations and is seen as intrusive technology. You might think it’s hip and cool and “everyone is doing it” but you’re wrong. They aren’t. And while you’re at it, don’t blog excessively from the office either. You’re there to work and stand out as a proactive team member.

#2 - Find a voice and use it: There’s nothing worse than someone who stares into a glowing computer screen all day or who can’t handle a conversation with the boss in the lunchroom. Wallflowers in any business will get steamrolled. Historically, PR agencies are fertile ground for idea sharing, teamwork and freedom of expression. Got an opinion? Express it! We want to hear from you more often than you think.

And the #1 Internship Blunder is...

#1 - Complaining about the work load: If you think it’s busy now as an intern, wait until you get hired full-time! Eat at your desk, learn to prioritize, or take home the odd bits of work if you are falling behind. But never, ever, complain you have too much to do. Instead, be thankful your boss took a chance on you. Smile and say thank you – even when another work file hits your desk.


Christine Smith said...

Informative, helpful post, Julie. Over the years, I've spoken with dozens of internship supervisors and I'd add these blunders to the list: not taking initiative; not picking up on corporate culture clues (especially during that critical first week) and fashion blunders like wearing a hat to compensate for a "bad hair day" or not having a jacket to slip over that tank top when you're invited in to meet the CEO. Begs the question: is it up to interns to "suss out" the situation and avoid blunders, or should the supervisor spell out the potential minefields up front?

Julia` said...

Hilarious! I posted this on the PR Facebook Group.

David Jones said...

Great post. I remember in my first agency job (luckily I skipped the intern phase), I mentioned to the boss that the pace was pretty intense. I had been working 7 days a week from Mid-May through July at that point. (I was working on lots of sports events back then.) The boss said: "That's the way it is in our business." I felt like an immature idiot and have never complained about pace, workload, or anything like that since.

Jacqueline Man said...

It is great to hear that you are a big supporter of student interns and thanks for all the useful tips. As a student who will soon be entering into the working world, I found this post insightful and interesting. I believe that Blunder #2 (Finding a voice and using it) is generally difficult to learn in the academic world, and will be my drawback until I can master it. Generally we are not exposed to situations where we need to become the focal point of a conversations and it can be extremely intimidating to those who are new to the “reality” of public relations. Learning to both perform and present our ideas in a clear and concise way to a large audience seems to be the toughest part of the job. Hopefully I can take the information you have provided us with and make my weaknesses my strengths in the future.

Elizabeth Chester said...

As a PR student about to embark on a years internship this blog has enabled me to see how employers view interns in the office more clearly. Its great to know that you do want us to get involved and speak out if we have suggestions... after all we are the new generation and its a fresh viewpoint that is sometimes needed!
However many of these blunders seem like common sense to me... i mean who refuses an invite to a party to do yoga... or listens to an ipod in the office! There are certain blunders here that i wouldnt dream of doing just out of politeness.
Thankyou for the insight. I will take your suggestions on board for when i am undertaking my years internship.

Julie Rusciolelli said...

Thanks for the feedback everyone and comments. Christine, good points, I'm not sure if supervisors need to spell out everything to new recruits, as Elizabeth comments, it's pretty much "common sense" practices. However, one of the unwritten rules at maverick is curry … I hate the smell and taste of anything curry. No one is allowed to bring that revolting smell in an office lunch bag. My nose is so sensitive when it comes to that odor, I feel like vomiting. It’s the first thing new recruits learn about office dos and don’ts around here!

David Jones said...

You may just be dead to me. Curry? Possibly the best thing on Earth.

And you call me mangiacake?

Julie Rusciolelli said...

Jonsey .. two things ... number one, no self-respecting Italian-Canadian goes home and cooks up a big batch of Curry and number two, yes, you are still a proud "mangiacake."

Anonymous said...

Fantastic blog! I enjoy reading PR industry insight from a professional female figure, many of the blogs and sites are predominantly male in my experience.

I am a fourth year Communications Studies major at York University (currently on strike) and starting to plan for internship applications.

Many people feel the cover letter and resume send off is ineffective, but as someone with few industry contacts, what do you suggest to get a foot in the door?