Internships are bittersweet. They offer great opportunities to get experience in the field and build professional connections, but they don’t automatically guarantee employment.
When interning, your objective should be to pad your resume with quality skills. Unfortunately, internships are pretty easy to screw up. Showing up late and accidentally calling your boss by the wrong name aren’t the only mistakes you can make (the latter of which I’ve done). There are plenty of other ways you can ruin the experience.
Here are 6 sure signs that your internship isn’t going to help you find a job.
1. You’re Too Quiet
If you’re anxious like me, you know how hard it can be to connect with new people in a professional setting. Don’t let nerves discourage you. Oftentimes, building a network is the best thing you can do at an internship. Even if you don’t leave your internship with a job in hand, you can walk out with a plethora of new connections who can help you find one.
Gary Vaynerchuk wrote a great blog post explaining why it’s crucial to get to know coworkers at your internship. Be yourself, and take time to build relationships with the people in your audience. They can offer you wisdom, help, and friendship. You’re going to need all three of these things for the rest of your life, so don’t blow off growth opportunities when they come.
2. You Go Through the Motions
Sometimes, we just want to put in our hours and go home. If getting your assignments finished and calling it a day motivates you, that’s great—once you land a real job. At your internship, you should never feel comfortable in a mundane routine. This is your time to explore!
Learn more about the company and find out about some of the roles your coworkers have. Expand your understanding of the industry. Don’t be afraid to shoot for the moon on a project. Always stay on the lookout for new learning experiences and new opportunities. Your internship should never feel boring. Soak in the experience like a sponge.
3. You’re Not Asking Enough Questions
I don’t know where you’re interning, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you’re not the most experienced person in the office. Ask for help when you need it. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed not to know something. Your superiors know you have a lot of learning to do, so they’re expecting you to ask questions.
If you mess up an assignment because you didn’t seek help, it could cost you a reference. Even if you’re comfortable with your work, ask questions anyway. Pick your boss’s brain about your career field and ask for professional advice. Asking embarrassing questions now can save you from asking them once you land a legitimate gig.
4. You’re Afraid to Make Suggestions
THIS IS YOUR TIME TO SCREW UP. If you offer bad suggestions for a project, so what? Make your ideas heard. Who knows? They may be just what your company needs. And if that’s the case, your job search probably just got a whole lot easier!
If your superiors are doing something that you think is a bad idea, share your opinions. Just be sure to share them gracefully. No matter your field, odds are you’re going to have to do a lot of communicating with colleagues throughout your career. Start practicing now.
5. You’re Not Seeking Resume Advice
Ask your boss to look over your resume. Having employers put in their $0.02 can help you on the job search later on. Your resume may contain glaring errors and/or opportunities to better sell yourself. Get that insider opinion to give yourself an edge when future employers are sifting through chest-high stacks of applications.
Be sure to ask your boss if you can cite him or her as a reference as well. A strong recommendation can get your name to the top of future applicant piles.
6. You’re Punting the Opportunity Away
Maybe you’ve found this internship isn’t right for you. First of all, that’s not a bad thing. You just saved yourself from possibly having a crappy career. Second, winding up with an internship you don’t want is no excuse to do a half-assed job of it.
There are so many work qualities employers across the board look for in employees: punctuality, professionalism, promptness, communication skills, to name a few. Demonstrate those skills in front of your boss, and make sure he or she can attest to those qualities in a future reference letter or phone call.
If your internship is not connected to what you want to do in any way, search for ways it can help you get a foot in the door somewhere else. The employment world is fluid. Marketers work with accountants. Police officers work with teachers. Salesmen work with managers. There are industry connections everywhere, so there’s mobility in whatever field you’re in. Put your best foot forward, no matter what!