Seven Ways to Make a Bad Impression at Your Internship

Sharise Finding an Internship, The Internship Experience 2 Comments

sleeping in the officeWhether you are on your first internship or your fifth, there are some things you want to do and other things you don’t want to do to leave a lasting impression. 

This quick list identifies seven ways you can make a bad impression. You want to leave your internship with a great recommendation, a mentor and a positive performance that got you noticed for the right things. So, do the opposite of these seven examples and you will be a stand out star. 

1. The badly dressed intern

Dress for success, simple enough right. Check with your manager and ask what the dress code is for the office. Is it business casual or does everyone wear jeans and sneakers? When in doubt, dress professionally on your first day. You would much rather be remembered as the intern who showed up in a suit on the first day, than the intern who was grossly underdressed in shorts and sandals. Part of being well dressed also means taking the time to do simple things like ironing your clothes, shining your shoes and checking your pantyhose for runs. Also, don’t go overboard with the aftershave or perfume.

2. The perpetually late intern 

Be on time or better yet, be 15 minutes early. If you are interning in a new city and you aren’t too familiar with traffic patterns or the public transportation system, then you should do a test run. A few days before you start, preferably during rush hour, just take the route you plan to take on your first day to make sure you know where you are going. You will feel more confident in planning your morning when you know how long it takes to get to work.

Over the course of the summer, occasionally things happen and you may get delayed, if so call your manager as soon as possible to explain the situation. Don’t become the chronically late intern because you can’t figure out a better route to work or you aren’t getting enough sleep and are failing to wake up on time.

3. The rude/mean intern

Introduce yourself to everyone. Be friendly. Take your smile with you everywhere go. When you meet people, sometimes you will have the opportunity to go into your full-blown elevator pitch and sometimes not – don’t force it. If you are in the cafeteria line and you notice a person wearing a hat of a sports team you like, make a comment about the team, or if you are in the elevator and you love the shoes someone is wearing, tell them you love their shoes and strike up a conversation. During the course of the conversation, tell them your name and what department you are interning in. Networking is about making connections. When the connection happens in a more natural way it can be less intimidating for you.

4. The social butterfly

While you want to take advantage of the opportunity to network, conduct informational interviews and be genuinely friendly you have to strike a balance. If your work is suffering, you are never at your desk when someone needs you or you spend the first 30 minutes of each work day chatting with everyone, then you need to pull back a little. Be friendly but respect everyone else’s time and be careful to not get pulled into office gossip and politics. Make an effort to attend at least a few company events and networking functions. Those activities can provide the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the people at the company you may otherwise not get the chance to meet.

5. The social media/cell phone addict

Never take your cell phone into a meeting. When you are at your desk don’t constantly text/tweet/post on your phone or computer. If you need to check the time, buy a watch. Don’t use your phone as an excuse to take notes, grab a pen and notepad for that. If you forget your phone is in your pocket and you find yourself in a meeting, just turn the ringer or the phone off. Always checking your phone makes you appear distracted and not tuned into what is happening in the meeting.

6. The fast but inefficient intern

Not everything is a race. When you are given an assignment, ask for direction in terms of when your supervisor would like the project to be completed. Don’t rush through everything trying to show how fast you are only to make a bunch of mistakes. Attention to detail is an impressive and desired quality that employers like to see. It can also get to be annoying for your manager who has to take the time to go back and correct your mistakes. Be fast but be careful. You will gain the trust of your manager sooner and ideally be given tasks with more responsibility by demonstrating care and pride in your work.

7. The know it all

Remain teachable. As an intern you are there to contribute, learn and grow. No one is perfect. There will be times when you get negative feedback on a project. Don’t take it to heart as criticism but embrace it as a learning opportunity. Ask questions so that you can learn from your mistakes and what you can do better the next time. 

Make the most of your internship this summer. Internships are a great opportunity to learn about a profession and just as importantly, learn more about yourself. Make a lasting impression for the right reasons by dressing for success, being on time, being friendly but not overly social, putting down your cell phone, paying attention to detail and remaining teachable. 

Get a complete break down on how to be a rock start intern in The Internship Manual: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting the Internship of Your Dreams.

The following two tabs change content below.


Internship Expert | Freelancer at Sharise Kent | The Internship Manual
Sharise Kent is an internship expert and freelance writer. She has spent over 20 years in college admissions and career development. As the former manager of a national internship program, she oversaw the placement of 400+ interns with some of the biggest media companies in the world. She holds an MS in Professional Writing and a BA in Public Relations.

Comments 2

  1. Hopefully I won’t be labeled as any of these interns this summer! This was a great way to make sure that I am doing everything possible to be the exact opposite of these examples. I might even read it before going to my internship every morning. Thanks!

    1. Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *