The benefits of securing an internship at a great company are clear. According to a report by NACE (the National Association of Colleges and Employers) over 64% of students who participated in a paid internship at a for-profit company received a full-time job offer at the conclusion of the internship. But landing a great internship is just the beginning for a student interested in advancing his or her career. Once an internship is secured, itÕs important that the internship go well.
To ensure that any internship is a success, readers should be sure to avoid these 10 common HR pitfalls.
1. Misrepresenting Yourself During the Interview
Even before the internship begins, it’s important for intern candidates to ensure that they are representing themselves honestly. Falsifying information such as education, past employment or extracurricular activities is a bad idea. A study referenced on Career Builder indicates that 72% of employers do some type of background check before making a job offer.
Chances are a job offer will not be extended to intern candidates who misrepresent themselves. If for some reason the company decides to move forward even after compromising information has been found, it will likely make for an uncomfortable start to the internship.
Intern candidates who would rather cover up a past indiscretion or blemish on their resume would be better served to simply rehearse talking about the subject before an interview. Candidates who clearly address an uncomfortable subject may actually show themselves to be more desirable. Being honest about difficult subjects is afterall a sign of responsibility and maturity – two qualities HR teams usually look for in candidates.
2. Lying to a Supervisor
Supervisors need to be able to trust their employees. If a breach of trust occurs between a supervisor and a subordinate that can be the end of an otherwise good working relationship. In order to maintain a good working relationship that will result in a valuable recommendation at the end of the internship, interns must remember to always be honest with supervisors.
While in the moment it may seem more convenient to lie or to tell a half-truth, interns should take the high road and should report honestly to superiors. In some cases, lying may not only damage the working relationship, but it could end in termination depending on how bad the lie was.
3. Sending an Angry Email to a Customer
Interns who are lucky enough to be trusted with a customer facing role should remember to avoid sending angry emails. In some instances, it may be tempting to send an angry email to a frustrating customer. But doing so will result in a diminished company reputation, a further frustrated customer, and possibly termination.
Instead, when dealing with a difficult customer, remember just how important the product or service is to the customer. When a business fails to meet expectations it’s time to provide outstanding customer service. The last thing an intern should do as a company representative is be aggressive over email.
4. Showing up Late for Work
It may not seem like a big deal, but arriving late or leaving early frequently does not reflect well. In her book Never Be Late Again, Diana DeLonzor discusses findings from her research about how tardiness impacts careers. Her research indicate that managers are less likely to promote workers who are chronically late even if they make up the time by staying late to get work done.
These findings will likely apply to managers working with interns as well. Lateness in and of itself is a sign of poor organization or lack of commitment. To make a positive impression at the office, avoid being late.
5. Failing to Meet Deadlines
Not every internship requires interns to meet strict deadlines. But for internships that are deadline driven, failing to meet deadlines can cause considerable difficulty. From a manager’s perspective, a missed deadline can mean a frustrated client, lost revenue or a disappointed senior manager.
It’s important that interns make sure they understand when and why things are due. Then they should work diligently to meet the deadline. If for some reason it is not possible to satisfy a deadline, then this needs to be communicated to the manager as early as possible in order to avoid serious negative consequences.
6. Asking for a Recommendation Prematurely
There are typically two ideal outcomes from an internship. First, the internship ends in a full-time job offer. For internships that cannot end in a job offer due to timing or another reason, then a great recommendation is the second best outcome.
For interns hoping to receive a meaningful endorsement from an employer, asking for a recommendation prematurely can be destructive. Some employers view this kind of behavior as manipulative or self-centered. Instead, it’s better to wait for the conclusion of the internship to ask a manager for feedback about overall performance. If feedback is good, then it is appropriate to ask for a recommendation.
7. Quitting the Internship Without a Good Reason
It can be the case that an internship becomes more challenging than initially expected. It may also be the case that for whatever logistical reason, and internship becomes inconvenient. Despite these types of challenges, it’s best to stick it out. Leaving an internship early without a good reason can damage a professional reputation. Additionally, future employers may ask for an explanation about why an internship was shorter than usual. If the explanation is unsatisfactory an employer may assume the worst.
8. Working with a Competing Company During the Internship
It’s becoming increasingly common for companies to ask employees to sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement). Depending on the contents of the NDA (which can vary greatly) the contract may prohibit any employee, including interns, from working with competitors while employed.
Even if a business does not ask interns to sign an NDA, it is a best practice to avoid collaborating with competitors in any way while employed. Failing to disclose such a collaboration can result in termination, or at the very least, it can make it less likely the internship will result in a job offer or a recommendation.
9. Neglecting to Accept Responsibility
Part of being a responsible employee involves taking ownership. In some cases taking ownership can be gratifying, it usually means working on meaningful projects that can make a big impact. But taking ownership also means taking responsibility when things don’t go as planned. Interns who fail to take responsibility are letting themselves and their teams down.
Certainly for something to go wrong it usually means more than one person made a mistake. But to own a project means to own it 100% for good or bad. Taking responsibility is a part of being a mature professional.
10. Forgetting to Ask For Feedback
Internships are the beginning of long and illustrious careers and because of this fact, is best for interns to ask for feedback from superiors. Afterall, receiving honest feedback is the only way interns will become better professionals. If an employer is hesitant to proactively issue feedback, then the intern should simply solicit it him or herself.