You've spent hours hitting the books to maintain your almost flawless GPA. You gave up the Taylor Swift concert with all of your friends to finish up your internship applications. You woke up at 5 a.m. to practice exactly how you were going to walk through those office doors on your first day. After spending months preparing for the internship of your dreams, the last thing you want to do is jeopardize it from the beginning. Here are the top 10 ways to lose your internship, and (more importantly) how to avoid these mistakes.
1. Get smashed at work happy hour
Repeat after me: Happy hour with my coworkers is NOT a grown-up frat party.
Needless to say, there is a fine line between having a little fun and getting completely bombed at an office event. If you wake up the next morning and can't remember the specifics of the previous night, you did something wrong.
Especially when you're out with co-workers, always be in control of yourself. Even if you and a few people from your office just casually hang out after work, be particularly cautious of how much you drink and how alcohol is affecting you. Lauren Berger, better known as The Intern Queen, notes, "In fact, you could lose the internship if you get drunk and act inappropriately around ANYONE—remember everyone knows everyone. Develop that mentality." Let's review: responsibly sipping cocktails with your co-workers after work = good. Dancing topless on the bar doing Backstreet Boys karaoke = bad.
2. Be the office diva
You mean, the company didn't hire other interns to get me coffee? Depending on the company, being an intern may mean doing the company's less glamorous tasks (e.g., mastering the fine art of the copy machine). When you don't feel like doing something, do it anyway. That's what it means to have a real job in the real world. Asking other employees to fax something when it was on your to-do list, tampering with the office thermostat because your hair will frizz at anything above 68 degrees, and wearing your Chanel No. 5 perfume even though the girl in the cubicle next to you is horribly allergic to it will all earn you the title of being high maintenance. Berger says, "Lose the internship by becoming an intern diva. You are there to learn—volunteer for everything."
Remember: you're an intern...not a princess.
3. Dress provocatively
It never ceases to amaze me that Snooki can walk around in broad daylight dressed like a streetwalker, and the girls on "The Real World" can rock hot pants and super low V-necks to their "internships" every day. If only we were all so lucky as to be receiving our paycheck from MTV.
Showing up to the office (especially a very conservative one) in low-cut tops, skintight dresses, thigh-high boots, and hot pants leaves very little to the imagination, and very little chance that you will be sticking around at your internship for too long. Berger advises against "showing off too much skin, wearing skinny strap tanks or flip flops.” Particularly in the summer months, when it comes to dresses and skirts, it can be hard to determine exactly what pushes the limits in the office (especially if your usual motto is "the shorter the better"). A good rule of thumb is to make sure that hemlines fall around the knees in conservative industries and no higher than three inches above them everywhere else. Also, avoid any shirts labeled "deep cut" or "super V-neck.” Instead, save any offending items for situations other than the office (e.g., night clubs, your internship at MTV, Halloween, etc.).
4. Treat the company supply closet like an Office Max
Why buy office supplies when there's a fully stocked closet right next to your office? I mean, it's practically saying "Come in, how about a new stapler? ...and one for all of your friends, too!" Okay, so pretending the office supply closet is a Staples is right up there with taking extra packets of Splenda from Starbucks and emptying the rest of the cheddar bay biscuits into your purse at the Red Lobster. It sounds good in theory, but in reality, it's just BAD (and kind of pathetic).
While some companies may have lax policies about you taking an extra pencil (or twelve) home with you, using company supplies instead of purchasing your own materials is not only tasteless, but extremely dishonest. Just because stuff is in a large quantities in an unsupervised closet does not mean that it is yours for the taking. Berger warns that behavior like this "shows your boss they cannot trust you." That is definitely not a good thing. So the next time you need a new pad of sticky notes, please, just go to Office Max (not the supply closet).
5. Take care of your personal to-do list at the office
Swapping Spring Break stories with your besties via Skype, scheduling your monthly bikini wax, and calling your dermatologist to ask her about that freaky rash on your back—a little free time during your internship can be the perfect time to finish up your personal to-do list! Unless, of course, you want to be a good intern.
While at the office, be 100 percent at the office. Physical presence is not enough; you should be actively engagedin your internship at all times. Berger advises, "Always ask yourself, 'Who else can I help? What can I be doing right now to make the most of this experience?'” Chances are, the company didn't give you this opportunity to just sit there and look pretty (buying a plant would have been cheaper). The key to having a successful internship is to make yourself indispensible at the office...and to save your personal (and potentially embarrassing) personal errands for your own time. Make your company question what they ever did without you (and not why in the world they hired you).
6. Show off your anger management issues.
This is one thing you definitely do not want to have in common with Naomi Campbell (who infamously de-stressed by chucking her cell phone at her assistant). Here's a good rule of thumb: even the worst day should not end with you hitting the copy machine with your purse. Ever. Being the girl with the reputation for exploding at office secretaries, yelling at (really) anybody in your office, and stomping off from meetings with your supervisor will quickly gain you a reputation for handling disappointment and challenges like a nap-deprived 3-year-old. Besides that, I would be surprised if your internship lasted beyond two days. While whining about having to come into the office on a Saturday may make you feel a little better in the moment, it's a proven fact that nobody likes a Debbie Downer. Berger says, "Lose the internship by not staying positive. Even when you are having the worst day, it shouldn’t show—stay professional."
7. Tweet your candid feelings about coworkers... constantly
"Mary in the corner office...pregnant or just hitting the Nutella a little hard?"
While some say Twitter is just begging you to let off steam about your day in 140 characters or less, you should do your best to restrain yourself. Facebook and Twitter are without a doubt a place where interns can get themselves into a lot of trouble. Berger says, "Don’t talk smack about your co-workers, job, or internship on Facebook [or Twitter]—bad news!" While it seems tempting to get a little venting out about that one (or 10) co-workers that absolutely drive you up the wall, resist the urge to post your feelings for the world to see. Anything you post on Facebook or Twitter is forever floating around cyberspace, and it can never be taken back.
8. Order the most expensive thing on the menu
It's pretty simple logic: Why order a posh lobster dinner when you're paying when you can wait until your next business dinner and let your supervisor pick up the check (and don't forget to order dessert!)?
Now that's what I call being conscious of your personal budget.
Just because your office is picking up the tab does not mean you should ignore those pesky numbers listed next to the entrees. On a similar note, Berger says, "Be on your best behavior at work dinners—napkin on your lap, elbows off the table, order something reasonable." Treat any meals out for work or with coworkers like a meal out with your parents. Order the filet mignon for dinner, and you'll definitely be hearing about it later.
9. Make your own three-day weekend
Did I say three-day weekend? I meant
four five-day weekend.
I mean, when you're not really feeling up to your Thursday morning chem lab you have the option of skipping it, right? Clearly your internship works exactly the same way... or not.
It may seem like high-powered execs get to make crazy schedules for themselves (two-week vacations anyone?) and, truthfully, it's because they can. That's mainly because they've already paid their dues. As an intern, you need to be available when your supervisor tells you to be there. This means that taking a personal day for "having a horrible stomach flu all night" when you are really just hung-over from partying the previous night is NOT ACCEPTABLE. If you're expected at your internship from 9 to 5, that means you better be there (and getting there early wouldn't hurt either).
10. Flirt with your boss
Finally, the pièce derésistance of turning your internship into a train wreck: hit on your boss. Don't be shy! Blow him a kiss across the boardroom table or throw him a wink on your way past his office. What could be a better ego boost for you and him? Hmmm... how about absolutely anything else in the entire world.
Bosses and flirting go together about as well as pickles and ice cream. Berger says that flirting with your boss will lead to "being forever known as the you-know-what intern."As one collegiette™ says, "Even though the 'dating your boss' plot usually works out in the end in romantic comedies...that's not real life. Bosses are beyond off limits—especially as an intern!" Here's the simple solution: Save your flirting for outside of the office... I bet your favorite barista at Starbucks is single (plus, he can make you lattes on demand!).
Lauren Berger, The Intern Queen, www.internqueen.com
Anonymous college women from across the country