The 10 Commandments for Your Internship


Alas the time has come for you to take on the internship and your feelings are mixed. Excitement mingled with nervous anticipation mingled with anxiety – albeit the good kind. This will be your first steps into the professional world and your first taste of what it feels like to be in a real office, sort of like an upgrade from the tiny hole in the wall you and your peers once occupied during your stint as President of your university’s student council.

While you may be at the bottom of the professional food chain (unless you work in a hyper laissez-fare startup where the CEO wears bermuda shorts and refers to everyone as bro), this is also the perfect time to learn and enrich yourself with valuable lessons that’ll you’ll carry close to your heart as you progress down your career path.

As internships traditionally last between three to six months, you’re definitely going to want to make the most out of its short time so to get you started, herein lies the 10 Commandments for your Internship.

1. Thou Shalt Not Turn Thy Nose Up at Trivial Tasks

Treat your internship just like how you would a real job. Even if it’s photocopying documents or helping your manager draft an email, take pride in the things you do and treat each task you perform with equal importance. How you approach your responsibilities gives your manager insight into your character and level of professionalism which means that moaning about having to perform an assignment that you feel is beneath you will probably not make the best impression.

2. Thou Shalt Never Utter the Words “That’s Not My Job”

Allowing your work to exist in a vacuum can be extremely delimiting and it prevents you from having a well-rounded experience during your internship.“That’s not my job” is probably one of the most reviled phrases in the professional world and with good reason. The working environment is like a team sport and cooperation goes a long way, this means that sometimes, you’ll wind up taking on responsibilities that aren’t necessarily defined in your job description. An eagerness to explore opportunities beyond what is listed in black and white is a great way to expand your learning curve.

3. Thou Shalt Not Fear Making Mistakes

Your internship is a time to learn and with that comes the probability of screwing up. “While it’s a lot more comfortable to be passive and adhere to the familiar, tiptoeing around the fear of making mistakes can actually sabotage your opportunity grow and improve during your internship” say Rosanne Hortensius, the commercial manager for Saleduck – an European deals platform with presence in over 15 countries. “Don’t be afraid to take on the challenges that come your way and chances are, you will mess up as you move along but they key here is to take ownership of your responsibilities, learn from your mistakes, persevere and make it a point to never repeat them.”

4. Thou Shalt Learn to Accept Criticism

You’re going to be told off. Probably more than once. And sometimes, it’s not going to feel great. But remind yourself that part of improving is learning how to take constructive criticism with an open heart and mind. Having your mistakes pointed out isn’t a personal assault on you or your credibility and being able to take criticism and making it work to your advantage is a step closer to success.

5. Thou Shalt Ask for Feedback

Having no knowledge on how you’re performing is a major setback as you won’t know where you’re going wrong or whether there’s actually a more efficient way to do something. Don’t shy away from asking for feedback once you’ve completed a task as it’s a fantastic way to improve and be better at what you’re doing. You’ll also come to realise that when you actively make it a point to ask how you’re doing, you’re more than likely to get an honest and candid response from your managers.

6. Thou Shalt Dress Appropriately

Even if a company adheres to a casual dresscode, turning up at work is a ripped tee and pyjama bottoms is still not a good idea. Find out about the company’s dress code beforehand and stick to it. Even in the most laidback of office environments, the clothes you wear to the office reflects the impression you want to make and how you want your colleagues and managers to perceive you so keep things clean and presentable.

7. Thou Shalt Pay Attention to Company Culture

Take time to observe and recognise even the smallest details of a company’s culture. Every office environment has its own set of unique behaviors and social graces and you need to be able to adapt to them. Learning how to embrace how certain things work and how people interact with one another is all part of being versatile which is a great skill to develop during your internship.

8. Thou Shalt Not Complain

It’s completely understandable that sometimes, things don’t always turn out the way you expect them to and there are definitely moments where you’ll be thrown into the deep end. Complaining and whining about it to anyone willing to listen is the last thing you’re going to want to do. If you have a problem, sit down with your manager and ask them questions on how you can best approach it. Simply moaning about a problem without taking any initiative to improve your situation is an absolute no-no.

9. Thou Shalt Pay Attention to Detail

Double check and triple check your work. Sending out an email and misspelling the name of its receiver may seem like a small error but it can have dire consequences. The amount of attention you give to even the most mundane tasks can reflect the degree of attentiveness you’ll have for your other responsibilities. If you can’t even spot an obvious error such as an incorrectly spelled name, how can your employer have faith that you’ll be meticulous in other aspects of your role.

10. Thou Shalt Not Be Afraid to Speak Up

Working blindly and not knowing why or how it benefits the company can be a waste of time. Take the initiative to ask questions and seek guidance as and when you need it. Don’t make assumptions or take shortcuts based on educated guesswork. Prove your value by asking questions, making suggestions and by presenting new ideas. Your internship is after all, meant for you to learn to the best of your abilities so use it as an opportunity to be as proactive as you can.


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