20 Ways to Not be #ThatIntern: Part IV of IV



20 Ways to NOT be #ThatIntern

Part IV of IV

asleep at desk

Two months ago I began this four part series, 20 Ways to NOT to be #ThatIntern, in hopes to save #JournoInterns from making some of the damaging mistakes that i’ve seen over the years.  I also hoped to provide a little advice for achieving success along the way and please remember this advice is in no particular order – each number is as important as the others.  Before I delve into the final 4 ways in which you can make sure that you are not #ThatIntern, let’s quickly review what we’ve covered so far – numbers 20 through 1514 through 10, and 9 through 5:

20.  Don’t Be Cocky

19.  Listen, Listen, Listen & then . . . listen some more

18.  Don’t be a Know It All

17.  Show Up

16.  Keep it to Yourself

15.  Don’t Play Politics 

14.  You’ve Got Time to Lean, You’ve Got Time to . .Clean

13.  Life Isn’t All Rainbows and Roses

12.  Ingenuity Goes A Long Way

11.  OMG – What Are You Wearing?

10.  Put It Away!

9.  Get Involved . . . But Don’t Get Wasted

8.  Know Your Grammar.  You’re In College, Aren’t You?

7.  You’re Only as Professional as Your Email.

6.  Prove Yourself.

5.  Smile & Be Nice!

Now, onto the final four….

4.  In the Words of Billy Idol . . . Do “More, More, More”

Your internship might not make you rich, but it can bring many rewards to your career.  Make the most of your experience and start out right on your career path.  In order to do so, you want to be sure you that you leave your internship with new skills, a better understanding of your field, and tangible accomplishments.

mad skills

Don’t cite the job description as your limits – use it as a starting point, but contribute and participate beyond that.  Your contribution could be using your intellect and creativity to make an existing project better, or compose something totally outside of your job description.

Remember, future directors and CEOs of the world:  Doing what is expected of you will get you a pat on the back and a decent recommendation.  Being kick-ass, on the other hand, will get you a network of mentors and friends, a vast array of experience, a great leg-up on your future career path . . . and maybe even a job!

missing an opportunity change life

Be on the lookout for opportunities to further your education and develop additional responsibilities.  Interns who identify office needs and ask to take on new challenges demonstrate the initiative and motivation for which companies are looking.  If there is a project that interests you, ask your supervisor if you can help out.  You can’t expect anyone to read your mind. 

i'm not a mind reader

Are you enjoying the work you’re doing?  Tell your boss.  Want to learn something new?  Politely ask someone — the worst they can say is “no.”  Just make sure that you pay attention to your manager’s schedule when you ask.  You don’t want to interrupt your boss when he or she is working frantically to meet a deadline.

i want to be a gladiator in a suit

Soak up as much as you can from your internship by looking for more assignments and projects if you are free.  Down time is perfect for chatting with co-workers and letting them know that you are there to help.  And by helping I don’t mean giving them fashion advice or filling them in on what happened last week on Grey’s Anatomy.

what? grey's anatomy

Consider yourself an integral part of the team, and with everything you contribute, remember that your involvement is playing a critical role in helping the team as a whole achieve their objectives.  Celebrate your team’s successes, but also allow your fair share of the blame if things don’t go as planned.  What goes around comes around.  Know or seek out what needs to be done on your end to make your teammates’ jobs easier.  There is a good chance that at this internship, or later in your career, they’ll give you support, too.

Motivated interns will want to do more than the minimum tasks assigned to them.  When you see some additional tasks that can highlight your skills, or that would be a good learning experience for you, suggest that you might be able to do them.

work work work work

But don’t propose additional tasks that would be appropriate only for a senior partner or department manager and don’t overstep any boundaries.  Keep in mind that you’re an intern and your ultimate goal is to learn and provide as much value as possible–you’re a low person on the totem pole.

what like its hard?

Interns are brought into companies of course to help accomplish goals, but also to bring in fresh ideas and fresh perspectives.   If you want to be a fearless intern, you must be willing to try new things and even share your ideas.  If you have an idea for a project your employer hasn’t thought of, make sure you speak up.   Never hold back on brainstorming with the team or offering something new to the table.  Interns often think they don’t have the ability to make a difference.  But, the reality is, employers want their interns to express their ideas and contribute to the overall success of their organization.  Your coworkers will notice your engagement and care for the company’s overall success. 

great idea

However, interns coming into a company often think that if they were running the zoo, they could do it a whole lot better.  And, in many cases, they’re right: New eyes often see things more clearly.  However, companies do not want to hear how all their practices and procedures are inefficient and ill-conceived—least of all, from you.  Even if asked, moderate your responses and do not be too critical of established practices.

where to start

Do get as much exposure in the organization as possible.  Find your role and claim ownership of your projects.  This will bring recognition to your value, as well as your work ethic.  Have that one project, which you completely own. 

own it

It can be big or small, but it should be fully yours and add value to the team.  Do the work, and if given the opportunity, get up in front of your manager and team members to present it.  This is your chance to make your mark, especially if you’re only at the company for a short-term position like an internship.  BONUS:  more stuff to add to your resume and to discuss in those horrific future job interviews.

Approaching your work with enthusiasm is a good way to convince supervisors to give you bigger responsibilities.

Take advantage of every learning opportunity.  Pay attention in meetings, ask questions, volunteer, or attend a lecture on something you’re interested in.  Although your internship is an enormous learning opportunity, it’s a good idea to look for ways to learn new skills.  For example, ask your manager if they’re involved with any professional organizations or if they can help you learn a new skill you’ve always wanted to learn.  This is a great way to show your enthusiasm and eagerness to learn.

challenge accepted jenna marbles

Remember, not every assignment that you’re given will be pulled off flawlessly.  You have to realize there will be hiccups that might cause you to become discouraged.  However, if you want to show you’re a strong intern, take on every challenge as an opportunity. This will show your boss your dedication to improvement and your desire to gain valuable life experience.


3.  Father Time Can be a Pain in the A**

Employers want to work with interns who they are confident will follow through with tasks and projects.  Show your employer you’re dependable by arriving to work on time, having the willingness to volunteer for new projects, and helping others.  This doesn’t mean you have to say “yes” to everything, but make sure your actions show how committed you are to your position.


Displaying passion does not mean you spend hours in doing a job perfectly which you should have completed in an hour or which did not require perfection. You won’t get any brownie points for the extra sauce.  If you have been asked to analyze something fast and present your findings, ask the purpose of the analysis.  If the findings would be used to present to a client, then you can spend time and create a professional powerpoint presentation.  However, if the project is just for internal progress discussions, you can create a simple presentation and use the remaining time for other assignments. 

Not finishing an assignment shows your employer a lack of commitment and that you’re not a hardtime's up girl, byeworker.  Always finish your work before the deadline to show you have good time management skills and you’re committed to the job.  Many interns, employees, and even professionals, underestimate how time-consuming projects may be.  As a rule, people underestimate how long a task is going to take, so when you’re working out the timeline of a project, be generous in your time estimates.  Making an impact is what’s important.  So, be time-wise and don’t take on more than you can handle or spend too much time on simple tasks.

Take initiatives but don’t overdo it and typing_gif_2 all nighterdon’t be afraid to say no.  Sometimes, you’ll be asked to contribute on a lot of projects, but you need to decide realistically if you’ll have the time to focus on them and do what is already on your plate.  Be forthright with managers and co-workers about your workload, talk to them about what you’re working on, and create self-imposed deadlines to stay on track.  Taking on too many assignments and not being able to complete them, even with the objective of showing your boss how good of an employee you are, displays an intern’s immaturity and lack of of time management skills.  Take initiatives, but be realistic in terms of the time that would be required to be spent on each assignment.

Do try to come in early and stay (a bit) late.  If your boss says you’re done for the day, by all means, scoot out of the office and enjoy as much daylight as possible, but if you’re working on something important, it wouldn’t hurt to stay at work until you finish it.  It’s always important to hand your boss your best work, and sometimes that means missing a few minutes of girls’ night.  Putting in an extra hour here and there can go a long way to getting a good reference so that you can land your dream job, one day in the hopefully not so distant future.

is what it is not always fair

At some point during your internship, your supervisor will ask what you would like to get out of the it and quite frankly, you’ll come off unprepared if you don’t have an answer.  Know what you want, say it, and be honest about your goals.  For example, one could say that they would like more writing experience and more “____” experience.  This blank could vary between pitching, media relations, social media, spreadsheet development, feature writing, news coverage, sports coverage, or event planning experience. 

On another note, setting up check-in meetings with your supervisor is always a good idea. This gives your supervisor an opportunity to tell you some things that you have been doing well and share some things that you could improve upon. Don’t be afraid to ask what you can do better, it shows that you’re invested in the internship and care about the quality of your work.


2.  It’s Who You Know, Not Necessarily What You Know

Capitalize on the opportunity to meet as many new people as you can and pretend that every great person you meet will increase your net worth by $100,000.  You will be surprised how many of these people you will someday work with, start a company with — or who will otherwise support you.  In this day and age, your net worth is impacted significantly by your network.  It’s not just the size, but also the quality of that network.  Get to know your mentor, manager, and team members. It’s important to build relationships with your co-workers to help understand how they work and form a better working environment. 

not interested in caring about people

You can also gain valuable career advice as well as establish networks for future employment.  Schedule one-on-one meetings, invite them to have a meal with you, add them on LinkedIn, have them look over your resume, and tell them about your interests.  You never know where a little afternoon advice could lead.

Learn from your coworkers.  Ask them about their own careers.  How they got into the field? What they like about it?  What they find challenging?  What advice they have for you?  Most people love to talk about themselves and will be flattered that you’re asking about their experiences.  Best of all, it’s likely to make them want to help you.

you're weird we'll be friends suits

You could even talk to your co-workers about your career plans, and let them know you’re open to advice, both now and in the future. They can be helpful by sharing job leads, recommending you for a job, and suggesting various career choices.  Most people are happy to help, but they might not offer if you don’t ask.

And be sure to befriend fellow interns at the company if there are any.  You’d be amazed at how many of your fellow schlubs will go on to distinguished positions in the industry in which you are going into.

very unbalanced individuals

Next, people at your internship or that you meet through your internship could be well connected and you definitely want to take advantage of that.  You never know who you’re going to meet or where and when you’ll meet them, so it’s a good practice to always carry a business card with you.  If you don’t have your own, make them at VistaPrint (which is super cheap and there is always a promo code available for it somewhere online).   Make a serious and conscious effort to remember people’s names and collect the business cards of others.  It can make or break you when networking. 

i tried

Make sure you ‘mingle” at work social events (if you’re not supposed to be working.  If you’re supposed to be working – then you better work). 

and girl, you better work it

Initially, networking and making connections with professionals may be overwhelming — but this is one of the simple first steps to get someone to know and like you.  Even if taking the edge off with a few cocktails sounds tempting – refrain and re-read number 9

algorithm for making friends

As an intern you need to realize that the success of your career is largely dependent on who you know and the connections and relationships you form.  The older I get, the more I realize that most people land jobs simply because of who they know (and trust me – many aren’t the least bit qualified.  It isn’t fair but then again, life isn’t fair).

what is happening to the world

Never take lunches alone.  Always try to take your lunches with your colleagues or bosses.  It gives the picture that you are integrating with the team.  Plus, lunch conversations will help you to understand what’s going on in the company, what opportunities may be available, and who are the influential people. 

eating lunch alone

However, never ever only talk shop during lunch.  Make sure that you also talk about hobbies, movies, news, etc.   Begin by seeing which topics your colleagues are discussing and then try to participate.  Lunches are excellent platforms to showcase your general intelligence (without being boastful), interests and likability.  Remember – take in more than you give or listen more than you talk. 

you don't get to talk ever again

Finally, use the experience to find a mentor.  Is there someone in the organization who you’ve got along with and who you can ask for some career support?  Don’t be shy to request it; my experience is that most successful people want to feel needed and to help others succeed.  Most will be flattered.


1.  Don’t Forget Your Internship Doggie Bag 

Walking away empty-handed does nothing for your career.  Even if your internship experience seems unforgettable or was one you’d rather forget, you may need to refresh your memory later on and keeping a record can help.

memories and experience

Write down all of your accomplishments and the projects you work on.  Describe the purpose and guidelines of each project and your particular contribution.  Ask your supervisor if you can keep a copy of any projects you work on – brochures, reports, etc.  Remember, pictures are worth a thousand words, so allow your portfolio to do the talking for you by making sure to get a copy of anything you created or helped to create.  Worse comes to worse, snap a picture of it with your smartphone.  I always backed up anything that I worked on to my personal jump drive which guaranteed that I would have a copy for my portfolio. 

take a picture

Log in with a daily journal. Create a list of your daily tasks and chart your feelings about your work.  Which tasks did you like the most?  Which seemed the least interesting?  Reviewing the list later can help you make future career decisions. 

write it down

Lastly, definitely ask for recommendations and references at the end of the internship.  It shows a lot of maturity and professionalism to go to a boss or coworker and ask them in person, too! Just make sure you ask people with whom you’ve built strong professional relationships that will speak well of you.  And don’t give them a specific employer or person to write to; general recommendations will help you down the road when you’re applying for internships or jobs in the future.  Don’t forget to ask for copies of any performance reviews if the company is the type to do that sort of thing – these can serve as great additions to your portfolio and resume.

this is bad

If you have the moment where you ask for a reference or recommendation in your mind from the word ‘go’, it can shape how you approach the whole interning experience.  What would you want to see written about you at the end?  Depending on where you intern, that reference might be the only positive thing to come from your time.

So your internship didn’t end in a job offer.  That’s OK.  Don’t peace out on your last day and disappear into oblivion. 

deuces baby

Stay in touch with everyone with whom you developed a good relationship.  Send them an email periodically – don’t bombard them with emails, of course!  But it can’t hurt to let them know what you’re up to a few months down the line – or meet for lunch when time permits. Keep them updated on your progress and career progression.  Just because there’s no job today doesn’t mean one won’t be available tomorrow.  People hire people they know.  If they can’t hire you, they may know someone who can.

not coolAnd sure, these people may be able to help you out with a reference or a letter of recommendation — but don’t let that be the only reason you keep in touch.  These people spent weeks training you and teaching you valuable things and even if that matters nothing to you – they will see your ulterior motives and that is hurtful – to their feelings and to your job prospects. 

Keep in touch because otherwise you’ll be just another intern who did their thing or a few months and put in their time . . . and that was it.  Even if the whole experience was not the best by any means, keep in contact with people who played a major role in your internship.  They will become part of your professional network that may be helpful in the future of your career.

i've worked too hard

 There you have it, the top 20 Ways to NOT be #ThatIntern!

Thanks for joining me on this journey and if you missed any part of this series, you can always read it from the beginning by clicking here.

Feel free to pass this along to anyone that you know embarking on an internship adventure, thinking about it, or starting a new job.  These tips can even be helpful and serve as reminders to those of us who’ve been doing this longer than they would like to admit.

Parting Words of Wisdom:

If you’re an intern chances are that you’ve spent (or are going to spend) tons of time and money on an education.  Even if you’re not getting paid, it’s important to realize that actual work experience goes a long way to preparing you for your career.  Think of your internship as an investment in yourself, just like your education.  Even if you’re not getting the coolest work to do, try to make the best of it and offer insight where you can.  If you’re working a summer internship it’s easy to throw in the towel when things get tough.  But I’ll let you in on a secret to being happy in life:  Doing almost anything to relieve short-term stress is a sure way to lead an unhappy life.

stressville population me

A little work will go a long way in terms of furthering your experience. Summer internships are about gaining learning experiences that will help you to better define your career goals. When you feel like you’re going to fall asleep on a pile of Excel spreadsheets, remember, you get to put this on your résumé!  Make the most of it!  No internship is a waste of time, even if it feels like one. If you spend three months slaving away in a banking position before realizing that finance isn’t for you, that’s OK.

i wanna run a country one day for all i knowIn fact, that’s awesome, because it’s way better to try something as an intern and realize you hate it than to start a job in a field you don’t even know you hate yet.  And you never know, a small idea you pitch to your boss could end up making your summer a whole lot more exciting!

Every internship, no matter the industry, teaches you important life skills — teamwork, networking, how to operate a coffee machine — that will help you be that much better at whatever field you ultimately pursue.  It’s definitely great to know what you want to do with your life — but in many ways, it’s just as important to know what you DON’T want to do.

that's just excessiveFinally, remember, it’s a strategic error to do every activity with an eye to parlaying it into a permanent position.  And it’s an even worse error to keep asking the managing or hiring partner how likely it is that you will get a job at the end of the internship.  It’s true that many internships can lead to a permanent position, either at this firm or at a neighboring one.  However, that position usually doesn’t go to the candidate who has been mounting a summer-long campaign to get it (he or she is usually seen as overbearing and just downright annoying).


20 Ways to Not be #ThatIntern: Part III of IV



20 Ways to NOT be #ThatIntern

Part III of IV

asleep at desk

Two months ago I began this four part series, 20 Ways to NOT to be #ThatIntern, in hopes to save #JournoInterns from making some of the damaging mistakes that i’ve seen over the years.  I also hoped to provide a little advice for achieving success along the way and please remember this advice is in no particular order – each number is as important as the others.  Before I delve into numbers 9 through 5, let’s have a quick review of what we’ve covered so far – numbers 20 through 15 and 14 through 10:

20.  Don’t Be Cocky

19.  Listen, Listen, Listen & then . . . listen some more

18.  Don’t be a Know It All

17.  Show Up

16.  Keep it to Yourself

15.  Don’t Play Politics 

14.  You’ve Got Time to Lean, You’ve Got Time to . .Clean

13.  Life Isn’t All Rainbows and Roses

12.  Ingenuity Goes A Long Way

11.  OMG – What Are You Wearing?

10.  Put It Away!

Now, onto Number. . . 

9.  Get Involved . . . But Don’t Get Wasted!

The best tip for interns is: get involved.  Join the office softball team, attend receptions, or join like-minded groups such as Society Professional Journalists, Student AdFed, Memphis AdFed, Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), Memphis Chapter of the Public Relation Society of America (PRSA), Association for Women in Communications, or attend Undercurrent events around town.

Many interns also get invited to various “outside-of-work” company activities. These events could be training sessions, lectures, company picnics, or, if you’re really lucky, company dinners and parties. By all means, go to these events!  Attending will not only give you a chance to learn more about the field within which you’re interning, but you will also make social contacts within the company and from the community.  Moving forward, these contacts could prove invaluable.  But don’t forget it’s also a professional environment.

At work get-togethers, socials, receptions, conventions, and/or conferences as well as at community events, please remember this key rule:

Don’t get drunk, just because the drinks are free!

who can say no to an open bar

I shouldn’t have to add anything to this, but it seems that I do.  Why?  Because at almost every event that I’ve attended in the past two years, I’ve seen at least two guests become #thatgirl, #thatwoman, or #thatguy and I was horrified each time.

Here’s a personal story to help put things into perspective:  

My best friend tagged along to a weeklong convention I was hosting in NYC and after one too many drink tickets were consumed, said best friend decided to tell the husband of a member on the Board of Directors for the nonprofit with which I was working at the time (no – I didn’t get fired and my leaving had nothing to do with this incident) that she hoped he ended up in a nursing home and that he was a war loving hate monger.  Did I mention he was a veteran?  This was in addition to some other choice words and phrases that I can’t bring myself to mention for fear of remembering the horror that I felt when I just happened to overhear their exchange on that fateful evening in March of 2009.  To this day, my best friend can’t remember exactly what she said but I do quite clearly.  I also know that she was my responsibility.  Thus, her actions reflected poorly on me and I was judged for them.  So . . . even though I was not the one who got drunk because the drinks were free, I learned a valuable lesson.

I chose this story because I felt that it would make the biggest impact, but I too have made the mistake of having one too many and speaking too loudly or gossiping when I should not have been.  However, nothing I have ever said was as extreme as the words of my BFF.

The lesson?  Do not be that person. Happily, the transgression did not kill my career or make it dead on arrival – but it could have done so easily.


A good rule of thumb is this:  If you are of legal drinking age, have one drink (one glass of wine, one beer, or one mixed drink).  Sip on it as you mingle with guests and co-workers.  Take your time.  This one drink should last you at least an hour and preferably, two.  If you absolutely must finish that drink before “time is called,” then have a soft drink or a sparkling water as your next beverage. 

Then, once you’ve finished that, and if the “party” is still going, allow yourself a second glass of wine or beer and make it last as long as possible.  Do not allow yourself more than 3 drinks during any single event, evening, reception, picnic, etc.

Mark my words and if you remember nothing else, please remember this:

You do not want to be that person as an intern, an employee, or a friend.  Be classy.  You can go get drunk another time or when the work function is over.  It won’t kill you to pay for your drinks, but it may kill your career not to! 

i'm a little drunk

As an aside:  Meet new friends and network, but don’t be the intern who shows up late or hungover for work the next day!

Also, be sensitive to cultural differences and religious beliefs that preclude some people from drinking.  If anyone says they would like sparkling water or a soft drink, respect them rather than teasing, cajoling or telling them they’re ‘no fun’. (For all you know, they’re in AA).

And as for handling the sight of your boss in shorts at a summer work event? Just get over it and be grateful for that glimpse of their humanity.


8.  Know Your Grammar.  You’re In College, Aren’t You?

friends grammar youre your

Details, details, details . . . The only people that need to pay attention to details are accountants, lawyers and physicians, right?  Wrong.  If you are looking to land a job at ANY company or organization, being detail oriented is not only an asset, it’s a necessity. 

First and foremost, clients and companies demand high-quality services, about 80 percent of which involve some type of writing or presentation creation.  If you hand over a PowerPoint presentation with grammatical errors, informal tone or worse yet, incorrect information, not only will you not get high marks for performance, but the company’s reputation will suffer as well.  Not cool.  After all, if a organization can’t trust you to spell, why should they trust you with their business?

grammar oistnb

It may seem obvious, but check your work, check your work, and then, check your work again.  Don’t forget to use the spell-check and the grammar check!  These may seem basic, but they are classic intern mistakes.  Many members of the Millennial generation are used to updating statuses and creating online postings, where they believe that grammar isn’t critical.  However, it is essential that all of your work is extremely professional!  And honestly, it’s critical that your statuses and online posts contain correct grammar and are spelled correctly, as well!

“Quite frankly, there is no excuse for misspelled words, even in BlackBerry messages. It’s just lazy,” says Roy Cohen, career coach and author The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.

“Spell check is available to everyone. Words that are incorrectly spelled or abbreviations often are difficult to decipher [and] can slow down the reading rather than speed it up. It may be more efficient for the sender, but it presents bigger challenges for the individual who has to translate the cryptic language for meaning.”

justin beiber if i was:were

Secondly, perception is everything. It may sound trite and old-fashioned, but it really is true. Providing work that is spelled correctly, formatted consistently, and addresses the audience accurately will enable you to stand out from the competition and position yourself as a professional that can be counted on for quality work.

Businesses have high standards and if you have a grammatical error in your resume, cover letter, or work assignment or have misspelled something in an e-mail, your name will likely get pushed to the bottom of the pile to never be thought about again!  Plain and simple:  paying attention to details makes you look good and one little mistake in spelling or grammar can ruin an entire resume, cover letter, or presentation.

taystee you'reIn this competitive job market making the right first impression is crucial for students, graduates, and interns.  “If the job you’re applying for doesn’t require that you have killer writing skills, it doesn’t mean spelling errors will fly in your résumé or cover letter,” says Barbara Roche, lecturer at The Wharton School.

“Job candidates do themselves no favors when they claim to have an attention to detail and then spell it ‘atention to detail,'” she says. “Most hiring authorities see typos and spelling errors as an indication of a candidate’s performance on the job: low quality and not caring about the impression they make on others.”

A 2011 survey conducted by Learndirect showed that 40% of jobseekers say poor spelling is the area they have been criticized for the most in previous jobs, whilst 56% of employers rate proficiency in English as a top priority when recruiting.

Interns can help their job-hunting efforts by focusing on their spelling and grammar in applications.  At a time when one in every 11 young people (aged 18-24) is currently out of work, good spelling and grammar have never been more important in improving job prospects.

Sheldon comma part 1sheldon comma part 2

Graduate Advantage (UK) has identified the top mistakes being made by British graduates on CVs and application forms (and American graduates are no different):

  • Lower case i instead of I, when describing yourself
  • There and their are interchanged
  • Commonly misspelled words which include: internship, receive, university, and business
  • Misuse of commas, colons, and semi-colons
  • Text talk and definitely no LOL as well as emoticons

It’s easy for an intern to quickly do a task to get it done, But it’s imperative that you double-check your work before submitting it to the boss, since even small errors will make you seem sloppy.


Interns often get tasked with editing copy or other documents and it’s really a straightforward task.  Find whatever is in red, fix the existing document, highlight what you did it, and move on to the next mark-up.  Although this process is super simple, it’s often seen as menial and interns tend to zip through red marks at light speed only to return the documents with errors that were already supposed to have been fixed.  As an intern, you should make sure that you’re acing what you may consider to be menial tasks.  You need to build trust with your employer and you do that by being consistent and accurate.

yep all fine proofread

“Everyone’s entitled to an occasional mistake once you’re on the job. Not that anyone among us is perfect,” Cohen reminds. “The goal is to demonstrate that at least for the purposes of job search that we care enough about the job and our candidacy to pay attention to the details. Although a typo is inevitable even for the most diligent among us, sloppiness at the start usually means the potential for carelessness later on. That’s not an acceptable standard for anyone in job search in a highly competitive market.”

Don’t forget that saving your work is obviously important too!  You won’t believe how many times interns have lost documents in the ethers of the internet computer-web.


7.  You’re Only as Professional as Your Email. 

Many people who use email for business communications fail to realize there is a big difference between using it in that context and to communicate with friends and family.  Correspondence of this type should be professional in nature, yet it is often impolite, too casual, and filled with errors.  This leaves a bad impression on recipients which may include your boss, colleagues, clients, or prospective employers.

zoe hart computer-gif

“A work email shouldn’t be written like you are texting your best friend, but many interns tend to forget that,” says Morris Rishty, CEO of REAL Underwear. As an intern, it’s especially important that you always proofread your emails at least three times before hitting send. “A poorly written email can show the boss that you have little interest in the position and aren’t taking the job seriously.”

Make sure your spelling is correct and use your spell checker, but be careful to not rely on it too heavily as it cannot think for you and differentiate between Its and it’s, two, too, and too, or you’re and your.  If you know that grammar and spelling are not your strong suits, then maybe it would be advantageous of you to copy the email text and paste it into Word (or Pages) in order to use the grammar checker.  The grammar and spell check when used together can catch more than either one used alone.  Once you are satisfied with your email, paste it back into the email program and read it again– just to be sure that nothing “messed up” during the exchange.   

If you don’t know how to spell a word, please don’t just guess.  You don’t even have to use a dictionary these days, although knowing how to do that quickly would be helpful.


Apple dashboard Dictionary search for the term “widget”

On a Mac, you simply press the “fn” key located in the bottom left of your keyboard and the “F12” button, located on the top row, second from the right.  This brings up your dashboard where Apple has conveniently placed a Dictionary, Thesaurus, and Encyclopedia combo app called a “widget.”  Simply type the word into the search box and choose where you would like to search in the left-hand drop down menu.  It’s as easy as that.


Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 4.07.36 PM

Google search for “prefesionalizm” returns with the correct spelling of the term “professionalism”

If you’re not using a Mac or it using the internet is easier for you, simply type the word into the Google search bar and hit enter.  Google will bring up a webpage where it will ask you if you meant _______.  There, Google will provide you with the correct spelling of the word.

I hope that by now that I don’t have to explain why you shouldn’t write your message in all caps or in all lower cases letters.  Use “Title Case” as if you were writing a term paper.  Although, I’ve seen several papers from students who didn’t use Title Case when writing those, either.

Seriously?!?  C’mon people – I can’t help you if you don’t help yourself!  Be smart.  For heaven sakes, you’re in in college, aren’t you?  How did you make it this far without basic knowledge of do’s and don’ts?

Next, watch your tone, mind your manners, and be concise. How many times did your parent’s remind you to say please and thank you?  Or to not “use that tone of voice” when addressing them? Or to “get to the point”?  Communication in the professional world is no different. 

In order to mind your manners, remember that many people are offended if strangers address them by their first names.  When in doubt, use Mr., Mrs., or Dr. (if appropriate).  When you are replying to an email and the sender of the original message has used his or her first name only, then you could safely assume that’s it’s okay to use that person’s first name as well. 

Your feelings come across by the way you say something and this defines the “tone” of your communication.  It’s often easier to change your tone when you’re speaking.  Although, I personally find it much more difficult.  It seems that I am constantly making “that face on the outside” or finding that my tone shows exactly how I am feeling even when I am trying to hide it.  However, this is uncommon for most people and they tend to struggle with “watching their tone” when writing. 

The problem is that the tone of text is largely dependent on the person reading it.  However, it doesn’t always have to be.  The way you craft your sentences guides people on how to read what you’re trying to say.  If your sentences are sharp and frank then people will assume you’re communicating in a gruff and blunt manner. Take a bit of extra time to write full, descriptive sentences so people won’t think you’re being a jerk.

check ya email

Whenever I write an email, I read my message several times before I hit send.  I want to make sure that I come across as respectful, friendly, and approachable, yet professional.  I certainly don’t want to sound curt or demanding and I have found that sometimes, simply rearranging paragraphs will help.

Email writers often use emoticons or emoji to convey a certain feeling such as happy, sad, confused, or excited.  Use good judgement here. You may think it’s cute and helps denote the tone of your words, but 44% of people believe it’s wildly unprofessional to put smiley faces in business emails.  If you write to someone frequently and you have a less formal relationship, them emoticons may be okay.  However, if you’re writing to a prospective employer or to someone with whom you’ve never spoken, stick to words only!

Since nearly 50% disapprove of the use of emoticons, that means you essentially have a 50/50 shot at sending a smiley to someone who won’t appreciate it.  I’d say that unless you have a former relationship with someone at your internship, you should stay away from emoticons, period.  This goes for anyone within your work environment, unless you’re replying to an email in which they have used a smiley face first.

modern family emoticon

When composing an email, you should be as brief as possible while still making sure to include all the pertinent information.  Most employers receive a substantial amount of emails each day and don’t have a lot of time to spend on each one.  If you want your recipient to pay attention to your message, make sure to get to the point as quickly as possible.

keep on keepin on Veronica mars

In fact, I’ve found that some like for the “point” of the message to be clearly stated in the subject line, repeated in the body, and followed by the supporting information in a (professionally written) bullet point format.

While we are on the topic of conciseness, let’s address abbreviations.  Just. Don’t. Use. Them!  Period.  End. of. Story!

anderson cooper shakes head no

I know that many members of the Millennial generation find it acceptable to use abbreviations for any word two or more letters in length.  Some examples are: UR, instead of your, 2 instead of to, or too, and plz and thx instead of please and thanks.  Truth be told, it actually caused me great pain to type that list.  I cannot stand abbreviated text messages and if I were to receive an email from an intern that contained anything similar to the above examples, I would be furious.  Not to mention the fact that I would instantly lose respect for that intern and begin to question their competence.  I’m serious, you guys (and no, i’m not old and yes, I text quite often).


Some experts agree that spelling has gotten worse with each new generation of job seekers, especially with the increased amount of texting and abbreviations younger folks tend to use. While running an internship program at Penn State, Roche ran into this problem often.

“It’s a real problem. College juniors and seniors simply have no awareness that they write in slang and shorthand in all instances until it is pointed out to them. They seem to split into two groups: those that are grateful to receive the feedback and remedy the situation. And those that give you the ‘thousand-yard stare’ as if to say, ‘So?'” Roche says. “This is how stark the difference can be: ‘Please accept the enclosed résumé for the entry-level administrator position’ and ‘Dude, hook me up.'”

speak english

The advents of social media and forums where you only have 140 characters to express yourself aren’t doing spelling-challenged job seekers any favors either, says Cohen.

“Social media has given a lot of people carte blanche to abuse spelling and grammar. In a world of tweets and texts, there’s no room for padding,” he says. “Words and sentences shrink to symbols and acronyms and have almost become a new language. Think: BFF or LOL.”

Finally, use a professional email address for crying out loud.  Your email address actually says a lot about who you are.  Are you a sexytridelt@isp.com, a kegpartykappa@isp.com, a catlady13@isp.com, a discgolfpro@isp.com, a milfmaster@isp.com, or an anarchistatheart@isp.com? Maybe.  But do you really want a prospective employer or boss to think so? 


Also, many interns won’t be given a company email (sometimes, yes but sometimes, no) and it wouldn’t hurt to have a dedicated email account for work correspondence.  This way you can keep all of your work, school, and personal emails separate from one another and lessen the likelihood of missing something important.  Nowadays, you can easily get a free account with a more formal address for this purpose.  Consider using your first Initial and last name (with only the day of your birth added on to the end, if you have a common name), your full first and last name separated by a period, or your initials and day of birth.  These are much more professional options and are also easier for people to remember.

A Few Tips: 

  • Always remember to return calls, emails, and texts within a reasonable amount of time.
  • Don’t hit “reply-all” to a company-wide email if you’re responding to one person. That’s a sure-fire way to annoy people right off the bat.
  • Definitely don’t ‘accidentally’ publish a funny dog video to your company’s YouTube account or accidentally get sexy with the entire office.

What you say?  Yes, all Melanie Anderson wanted to do was alert her co-workers that the lunch truck had arrived. Instead, she ended up forwarding intimate emails with her fiancé (who also worked at the Scotland-based oil services firm) to 89 of their co-workers.

fargo gettin sexy

This bit of unintended intra-office exhibitionism occurred due to the most innocent of errors. When Ms. Anderson alerted her co-workers to the fact that the “Sandwich van is here,” she pasted it over an email response to her fiancé and CC’d the rest of the office.  Unfortunately, she had forgotten that during the email conversation with her fiancé there was some intimate talk such as “I loved our s****** last night…it was ace.” (Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what that seven-letter “s-word” is, but apparently it’s something in Scottish slang that the Daily Mail felt the need to give the asterisk treatment to).

As I’m sure you can predict, the email found its way outside of the company and became a viral sensation with its own associated hashtag: #sandwichvan.  Ms. Anderson and her fiancé both later resigned from their positions out of complete and utter embarrassment.

Do remember that you are in a professional setting, and you will be treated as a professional. It is expected that you behave professionally at all times throughout your internship, even when it comes to email.

Overall moral of the email story?  Don’t be the guy that send his professor an email in the video below.  Ever.


6.  Prove Yourself.

When you come in as an intern, you’ll have to prove yourself in the work world.  To show that you pay attention to detail, follow instructions, and care about quality, do a great job even when you’re handed boring tasks.  There are several simple ways in which you can show your employer that you’re to be trusted and then eventually, someone may let you try something more interesting.

let's do this

First, cling to a Pen and a Notebook and make sure you write things down.  Seriously, write down everything.  It not only avoids annoying your boss by going to him/her again for the points you missed or forgot, but will help a lot when you start working.  An intern who carries a pen and a notebook with them is way more trustworthy than one who comes alone.

When your supervisor is explaining something they want you to work on, it’s easy to get caught up in just nodding your head and saying you understand.  But then, when you get back to your desk, you have no idea what you’re supposed to be doing and you realize that you were totally wondering if you set your DVR for Scandal while your boss was explaining your task.


That’s why writing everything down is the way to go.  Instead of mindlessly nodding your head, you’re writing down every word, that way when they ask if you understand, you can either say “Yes, I do,” or “No, I have this one question about this (pointing to your notes).”  I’ve had supervisors comment on how much they like that I write things down because it shows them that I care about what I’m doing.  Truth be told, it’s usually on an array of sticky notes that will soon cover my desk but the fact that I write it down at all, puts people at ease.  

i wasn't listening lego

It gives your employer the same feeling you get when you go out to eat and your server actually writes down your complicated order filled with substitutions.  He or she may be able to memorize it with no problem but you are more comfortable that it will arrive just the way you ordered it because they wrote it down.

Secondly, demonstrate your desire to learn new things and show that you are mentally present.  One of the best ways to make yourself liked at your internship is to always show enthusiasm and commitment to the job.  Sure, you’ll see colleagues who are bummed out and who, after many years at their jobs, don’t seem to be enjoying the work.  However, you’re not one of them! 

rise to new heights as high as the next supreme

Presumably, you’ve picked your internship because you are interested in the field and eager to move ahead in it.  Communicate while on the job.  You can do this by displaying passion in your work and even if it is just a data-entry assignment, you can still be creative in structuring the data in a way that helps the management.  Your work will not go unnoticed.  It may seem that way at the time but trust me, people notice even if they say nothing.

The golden rule for interns is to always ask: “Is there anything else I can help you with?”  Whenever you see an opportunity to help others, don’t hesitate to lend a helping hand. Research shows that workers who help others are actually happier with their jobs and not only that, but it also boosts morale in the work-place.

i volunteer

It puts forth a good image in the office when you seem eager to work and take on new challenges.  Don’t be shy.  Going to work and going home isn’t the way to be memorable.  If you have something to contribute to a discussion, chime in during a meeting (but don’t interrupt and don’t be pushy).  The best interns are individuals who are go-getters and don’t wait around for their boss to give them more assignments.  Valuable interns ask for new projects and volunteer to help others.  Showing initiative is also the good way to show your manager and coworkers your value.  You’re not expected to know everything, but surely you have something of value to offer the company.

headphone work

Even if you are quietly working on an independent project, don’t put headphones on at work. It is pretty unprofessional and as an intern, you don’t want to seem closed off to the environment and conversations around you.  Plus, do you ever see the CEO wearing headphones?  I didn’t think so.

Also, don’t ever do your homework while at your internship! I don’t care how much homework you have to do when you get home, do not do your homework at work and especially don’t do it on a company computer.  Why bother with an internship if you’re just going to do schoolwork?  This is a learning opportunity.  So be present and learn!

There have been plenty of times that I got up in the morning, went straight to work, then straight to class, and then worked on various projects, homework, and household duties until 6am.

fresh hell

I’m not saying that you should expect to have my schedule, but it’s not your company’s fault that you’re swamped with homework and you shouldn’t waste company time by doing homework on the clock.

You made it this far, didn’t you? If you can brand yourself as a contributor and a problem-solver, you’ll become a go-to member of the team.


5.  Smile & Be Nice!

That seems simple enough, right?  Apparently, wrong.  You’d be surprised how many times i’ve seen the grumpy, frumpy, annoyed, pissy, scowling, disinterested, and down-right unfriendly intern and/or employee.  It’s quite shocking. 


I’ve always found that the best way to make time at work go more quickly, is to enjoy yourself while you are there.  This advice works for almost anything actually. 

I used it just the other day at the grocery store and trust me, the grocery stores in Memphis try my patience every single time I go.  But, I just smile and say hello to those with whom I happen to make eye contact or offer a polite excuse me while moving past the mother and her 5 kids standing right in the middle of an aisle. When I employ these tactics, I feel much less like hibernating or embarking on a killing spree.  So…

cat machine gun

Be the person who smiles, says hello, and introduces him/herself to everybody at work.  Don’t be the person who detonates his/her lunch in the microwave and doesn’t clean it up because that is a sure fire way to make it harder on other employees to employ the smile and be nice tactic. 

jennifer lawrence microwave

Most times, you make your reputation on first impressions, especially if you’re only at the internship for a short time, such as one semester or during the summer months.  So make sure that everyone’s associations with you are positive.  It makes a big difference if you leave a general impression around the office that you are a good person to work with.

screaming internally

Be polite to everyone you encounter especially those who are there to help you. Make friends with the receptionists, drivers, and custodial staff you meet.  They are some of the nicest people!  Get along with others.  Be pleasant and courteous to everyone and try to get along with the other interns.  Ask people how they’re doing.  Make smalltalk.  Don’t be a robot.  Don’t leave the printer jammed.  If you jam up the printer at work, use all the ink, and leave it without any paper, people in the office are not going to like you very much.  Either fix it yourself or find someone who can help. You don’t want to make a bad impression with your lack-luster printer etiquette.  This isn’t rocket science, guys.

paper jam

Be flexible.  This is one of the strongest characteristics that an intern can have.  Everyone likes to work with someone who is nice, flexible, and easy to work with.  It’s one of those traits that can get the internship turned into a job, but It’s not a substitute for good performance though. You must perform well and be nice at the same time.

Be at ease.  I know it is easier said than done, but when you are tensed, out of place, or under-confident–your work, and your relationships at the work-place, suffers.  You have to gather yourself and portray a picture of the happy + confident you.  If the work-place makes you uncomfortable for some reason, try to get over it and start with the basics of smiling, and saying hello. 

calm down

Be positive.  Your attitude is everything during your internship.  Even if you’re under stress, do your best to have a positive attitude.  You will encounter challenges during your internship, but if you approach them in a positive way, it’ll be easier to conquer those roadblocks.

During your internship, allow your manager and coworkers to see the real you.  Let your character shine through and don’t be so focused on being perfect all the time.  In fact, you should allow your character and personality to blend into the work you do.  A big part of your internship is based on the relationships you make, so don’t be afraid to be yourself.  Unless you’re a serial killer, a sociopath, an obnoxious and rude person, or anything similar–then you should probably hide those qualities away while at work.  I’m just sayin’.

dexter creepy smileWhich brings me to how you should learn to . . . Distinguish between polite- friendly, hey-I’m-your-buddy-friendly, and I’ll-lick-your-feet-friendly.  Once you are at ease with yourself, remember to not go overboard.  Don’t entertain the idea of sucking up to someone, you might think that by being extra sweet, you will earn points but in actuality, you’ll earn an impression of being a total cling-on case.

he wanted to lick my face

At the same time, don’t let the idea of being bestest pals take over.  Just because you don’t need to be a neurotic edgy intern, you are not going to treat your boss like your best friend.

The idea is that you don’t need to make your boss the next superman or your total BFF.  Be polite and friendly but remember that they are your boss.  There is a very thin line between all three attitudes you might exude in your behavior, and you should learn to distinguish.  And don’t try a poker face.  Expressionless faces are simply annoying and kind of creepy.  Also don’t try the lost puppy face–nobody is interested in knowing the story behind your longing.  Just Smile. Be positive.  There is nothing more to it.

thank you very much sirLastly, talk to your manager about what you’re getting out of your internship, and thank them for giving you the opportunity to work there.  We all love hearing the occasional expression of appreciation, so don’t be shy about offering it.  A simple expression of gratitude may even put you ahead of the pack and no matter what type of setting you’re working in, everyone loves a happy, enthusiastic, young college intern. If they like you as a person, they’re more likely to ask you back or recommend you!

That’s all for this month’s edition and the end is near!

Stay tuned for #4 through #1.

Come back next month to learn the final 4 Ways to NOT be #ThatIntern.

20 Ways to Not be #ThatIntern: Part II of IV


20 Ways to NOT be #ThatIntern

Part II of IV

asleep at desk

Last month I began this four part series, 20 Ways to NOT to be #ThatIntern, in hopes to save #JournoInterns from making some of the damaging mistakes that i’ve seen over the years.  I also hoped to provide a little advice for achieving success along the way.  Before I delve into numbers 14 through 10, let’s have a quick review of where this all began – numbers 20 through 15:

20.  Don’t Be Cocky

19.  Listen, Listen, Listen & then….listen some more

18.  Don’t be a Know It All

17.  Show Up

16.  Keep it to Yourself

15.  Don’t Play Politics   

Now, onto Number….

14.  You’ve Got Time to Lean, You’ve Got Time to….Clean

Most internships start slow and build up.  Not all companies have a structured training program or welcome receptions for new interns — so be ready to roll up your sleeves and find opportunities to contribute.

Also don’t say NO to mundane tasks.  You weren’t provided the opportunity to learn to be able to say “no.”  Staff have to do these tasks with or without you. Think having a bachelor’s in journalism, international affairs, marketing, public administration, or business qualifies you to lick envelopes?  No, but having a tongue does.

cat lickin envelope

Your main objective should be to make yourself invaluable or at least make your co-workers’ work lives a little better.  You might be overqualified for most things you do, but do it like your job depends on it.  Once you’ve proven yourself worthy on the crap tasks, offer to do some other things that your co-workers might not want to do or have the time to do, such as cover a court case, write a letter, or research new membership software.  They’ll be grateful and you will endear yourself to them.  Many times the invaluable intern gets offered a job.

Whatever your work is — filing papers, making copies, picking up Starbucks or something (hopefully) more substantial — do it efficiently and do it well. Your work, no matter how trivial it may seem to you, is important and much-needed.

One of the biggest mistakes I see interns make is that they sometimes don’t take advantage of the opportunities sitting right in front of them.  If you sit back and wait for something to happen, nothing will.  You need to be proactive, by making the most of your internship to get the most out of it.

I know how hard it is to wake up (trust me – I’m not a morning person), commute, and jump right into doing something as boring as filing, making copies, or whatever diminutive task your boss might ask you to do, but it’s better than your boss realizing that you’re sitting at your desk twiddling your thumbs or hiding in the bathroom using your phone.  Don’t worry, we will get to the phone in a minute.

If you have one of those internships that doesn’t have anything for you to do, then make work for yourself.  Read up on industry trends, organize the office supply room, or familiarize yourself with the company’s current projects.  Volunteer to do something you think is needed, help a coworker, or ask for more responsibilities.  There’s always something to do, I promise. 

You could even volunteer yourself to do something that doesn’t look all that enticing, like cleaning the kitchen or fixing-up that messy closet — so that when an assignment finally does come along, you’re fully prepared to tackle it.  Also – everyone will be super excited if they can now locate a pen with ease in the supply room!

Your supervisor is likely busy and won’t be able to give you tasks for every second of the day.  Sitting around and waiting for them to give you something to do isn’t a good habit to get into.

Still at a loss for something to do?  Show that you’re taking initiative by coming up with an idea and pitching it to your boss, if he/she hasn’t given you an assignment!  Always show your willingness to put in the extra work.


13.  Life Isn’t all Rainbows & Roses!

Wahh wahh wahh.  Whining is not an acceptable response to any request, no matter how annoying it may be.  Complete all your work with a smile, even if you’re screaming on the inside.  Remember, it’s an opportunity — not a chore. 

Cleaning out a supply closet, creating an endless stream of spreadsheets, following directions from an impolite superior, designing a brochure in a way you feel isn’t the best, or answering phones isn’t always fun.  We know that.  We get it. 

Unfortunately, this is the way the real world works.  Most of the time it isn’t fun.  We don’t all get to work at Disney World and even then, I bet those employees still face the same issues that you have.  Life isn’t fair.  It isn’t full of rainbows and roses and you are not a special little snowflake. 

You are there to learn about a certain industry and you can decide after the internship if that particular environment is right for you but while there, you work.  You make a good impression.  You smile.  You do your job.  You do not complain or whine.  You certainly, do not complain audibly, while at work!

One thing you’ll need to learn quickly when you start working with other professionals is to not take things personally.  Just because there was a mistake on something you did doesn’t mean the person who’s calling it out hates you.

Constructive criticism is all part of the learning process, and not everyone will be polite about it.  Don’t tolerate bullying or disrespect, but do grow a thick skin — that way you’ll learn from your mistakes instead of repeating them.

You’ll get better at this over time as you develop a tougher skin.  If someone tells you something that upsets you, do your best to hold it together until you’re alone.  Crying in front of your coworkers is a sure way to show you can’t handle stressful situations.  Never let them see you cry.  Repeat this with me:  Never let them see you cry!


12.  Ingenuity Goes a Long Way! 

It’s a given you’ll have questions in your new role, but instead of bombarding your boss every 15 minutes, first take a moment to think about whether there’s any way you can find the answers on your own.  Many employers are massive fans of throwing interns in at the deep end in order to see if they sink or swim on their own.  This doesn’t mean they are rooting against you.  They are merely testing your ingenuity and fortitude.

Google was created for a reason!  It has almost all the answers to all the questions and the how toe that will save you from feeling and looking like an idiot in front of your boss, if you were to ask him/her. 

If Google doesn’t have the answer, turn to a friend or call your parents.  I’m telling you, one of these three valuable sources will have an answer that will make you look like you’ve got yourself together.

Try to figure it out for yourself and I mean, really try.  Spend more than five minutes.  Use those investigative skills you developed stalking your ex or figuring out how much a trip to the beach on spring break would cost per person, per room,per day if you left at X time instead of Y time.  You get my point.

Put a little effort into this and you’ll be glad you did.  It not only makes you look good when you find the answer but it makes you feel good knowing that you did it on your own.  At least it should.  If it doesn’t, then you may want to think about asking yourself if you’ve taken too many of the easy way outs in your life. 

After researching on your own, if there are still some questions you simply couldn’t get answers for, create a list to bring in to your boss.  This will show your ability to problem solve and that you’re sensitive of their time.

If the requirements of a task or project aren’t clear, ask for more details at the time the project is given to you. 

If the task is deliberately open-ended in order to give you a chance to learn and show initiative, make sure you have all the information and resources you need before starting, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice, if it is truly needed.  Don’t pretend you know something you don’t when an important task is on the line. 

Generally, when you are assigned any task- you are working under a time constraint.  You can’t afford to mess up the work by assuming things or misinterpreting the instructions given.  If you don’t understand the task you’re being assigned, ask for clarity rather than blunder on and risk disaster.

Accept that you may make mistakes and own up to them.  It’s ok.  We all do things wrong sometimes. But red marks are dispensed when you discover that an intern didn’t ask for help and tried to cover their tracks after screwing up.  Don’t lie.  Own it.  Trust me – honesty goes a long way too.

i messed upJust remember:  Ask for clarification of the project in the beginning if you don’t understand the instructions completely.  However, if you run into something that you think could be answered by using your old friend Señor Google – try it before asking for help.


11.  OMG – What Are You Wearing?

Many times, interns are sent home because of what they’re wearing.  Be cautious of what you’re wearing.  You’ve heard it before — dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

Dressing like you’re going to the nightclub in the morning is a no-no. Would you wear that outfit to church? Didn’t think so… leave it for Saturday night out.

While some offices celebrate Casual Summer or Casual Friday, interns still need to dress professionally, especially if they’re going to be interacting with clients and high-level staff.

The way that you dress is a reflection of how you perceive the company you’re working for.  Even if the place you work at is really laid back, showing up in tattered jeans and slippers isn’t acceptable.

And please… watch how much skin you show (men or women). 


  • Wear an solid white shirt underneath your dress shirt.  The entire office doesn’t want to see the logo from your last frat party or those “Must be this tall to ride” type slogans that your peers might find funny. 
  • Make sure you wear socks with your loafers or boat shoes.  I know that the sock-less look is fashionable these days.  In fact, I recently instructed my significant other to leave off the socks. However, he was not going to work nor was he an intern.  Just put on socks!  And Hipsters, those socks better not have pictures on them!
  • Don’t forget the razor. No-Shave November?  Not for you!  If you had a beard or goatee when you were hired, then by all means keep it.  Just keep it under control.  No one wants the intern who reminds them of the Unabomber or Grizzly Adams!  If you were hired with a clean-shaven look – maintain it throughout your internship.
  • Invest in an iron or budget for a weekly visit to the dry cleaners.  You do not want to show up in a wrinkled shirt or khakis.  Period.
  • No hats of any kind.  That includes ball caps, fedoras, sombreros, stocking caps, bandanas, and the like.  You would think this would be a given.  Unfortunately, it isn’t. 
  • Everyday is a shower day!  Everyday is a day for deodorant.  Use a brush, every day.  Again – unfortunately this is not a given.  You wouldn’t believe the stories I could tell.  Don’t be one of those stories.  #smellyintern, #lazyintern, #hungoverintern are not hashtags of admiration. 


  • Check the length of your skirt before you leave the house by bending over and petting your napping pup or touching your toes.  If you don’t think your father would approve of the “behind” view, then either put on a pair of leggings or change outfits. 
  • A good rule of thumb is to make sure that when your arms are held at your side, the skirt is at least in inch longer than your fingertips.  In most cases, this is accurate and acceptable.  However, some people have long legs and short arms.  If you are one of them and still aren’t sure about the length of your skirt – change it. 
  • You are going to want to learn the art of wearing a tank top underneath your shirt if you are used to wearing low cut blouses or button-up shirts that don’t quite button around the chest area.  This is a problem many of us have.  Those all-important third and fourth buttons strain to break free and sometimes we can get away with just leaving them unbuttoned.  Don’t try this at your internship.  Put a tank under it and voila – tacky to work-trendy. 
  • No skin tight clothes.  I don’t care how cute it is or if its the latest fashion.  Save it.  This goes for jeans, pants, skirts, and shirts!
  • Invest in cute cardigans.  These are lifesavers for fashionable women, especially during the summer.  Take those cute summer dresses – you know, the ones with the spaghetti straps – and put a cardigan over it.  This instantly gives you twice the number of potential work appropriate outfits without spending a ton of money AND you can easily lose the cardigan on the hot drive home or when you meet your friends for happy hour!
  • Keep the makeup and accessories to a minimum or at least keep them modest.  Don’t rock the full-on glam eyeshadow at work and save the 3inch dangle earrings for going out with your friends.  Remember – keep it professional.  Unless of course, you are interning in the fashion world.  Then – throw out everything I have said and glam it up!
  • Wear a bra.  No – the shelf bra in that tank top doesn’t count nor does scotch tapes on your tatas!  Enough said and I really shouldn’t have had to say that much!

Many companies – especially in the south – are still run by older generations of men who think certain ways about clothing and styles.  You may disagree but as long as you need a paycheck, or in this case an internship, and they are offering you one, dress the way they would want you to dress.

That said, don’t rock a full-on suit and tie if everyone in your office is wearing jeans. On your first day of work, dress on the conservative side. Then check out what your coworkers are wearing and use that standard to judge the rest of your outfits.

You don’t have to wear your Sunday’s best if that’s not the culture of your workplace, but you should be mirroring the best dressed employees in the company.

If your closet is filled with tank tops, low cut shirts, flip flops, micro-minis, frat/sorority tees, hipster jeans, distressed jeans, 4 inch heels, yoga pants, sweatshirts, and a whole lot of “i’m in my 20s” clothing then tell mom to send you money, and visit one of the many clothing stores around town or raid a friend’s closet until you can make enough money to purchase some key pieces for your internship.

No shorts, no flip-flips. Pretend it’s a real job, even if it isn’t. Yet.


10.  Put It Away

In last month’s edition of 20 Ways to Not be #ThatIntern, Number 16, Keep it to Yourself – Online and Off, talked about the importance of Social Media and how it is certainly used in everyday life.  How a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn account will help you build your online presence, but that it could hurt you in the real world.  We advised you to remember that what you put online will be exposed to everyone, so be sure to ask yourself if it would be a good idea to put whatever it may be online and for the love of kittens – how you should under no circumstances post any potentially questionable pictures.

What we didn’t mention is this: 


These days everyone is glued to their smartphones.  There’s nothing more annoying than a smartphone that’s always going off in the workplace.  Make sure your phone is on silent (that means vibrate is off too).  Keep your phone in your pocket until there’s an acceptable time to check it.  Try to limit yourself to a few times a day.

Yes, occasionally checking your Facebook feed is fine – ONLY if you have taken care of everything you were tasked to do or if your superior is in the bathroom.  However, if they are in your office – Don’t even think about touching that phone to answer a text, check your news feed or send a SnapChat. 

Your employer doesn’t care that everyone is doing it.  Even I, an avid face-booker, text-er, and all-around social media maniac, gets perturbed when someone is always looking at their phone.  Especially when they have work they could be doing.  See Number 14 if you think there isn’t anything for you to do.

Don’t make personal calls. Don’t text. Don’t surf the web. In fact, you should just put your phone away during the workday so you’re not tempted to use it if you have problems with limitations.

Also, don’t let your co-workers catch you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. The only exception here is if you’re doing it for work and trust me – your co-workers and your boss can usually tell the difference between personal and work related social media. You don’t want to look like a slacker.  Which brings me to my next point… which you can read in next month’s edition of 20 Ways to NOT Be #ThatIntern

That’s all for this month’s edition.

Stay tuned for #9 through #5.

Come back next month to learn 5 more ways to NOT be #ThatIntern.

20 Ways to Not be #ThatIntern: Part I of IV


by Four-Time Former #JournoIntern

– Robin Spielberger

I know you all are wondering why I, Robin Spielberger, member of the Fall 2014 #JournoIntern class and current University of Memphis Graduate student, feel qualified to share copious amounts of advice with you about how to not be “that Intern.”  So let me give you a little bit of insight into my background.

It is true, I am graduating this December with my Master’s in Political Public Relations and worked part-time for the Tennessee Firearms Association over the summer under the self-inflicted title of #intern.  However, this isn’t my first time entering the job market or even holding an advanced titled position.

I returned to graduate school after 10 years of working my way “up the ladder” and holding positions such as Assistant Executive Director, Director of Special Events and Public Relations, Co-General Manager, Director of Marketing and Communications, Assistant Director of the Hank Aaron Celebrity Sports Weekend, Assistant Director of Production, Campaign Manager, 2012 TN and MS Field Representative, and Youth Leadership Director.

Early in my professional career and before ever obtaining my undergraduate degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Advertising from the University of Memphis, I was lucky enough to have received paid internships at Thompson & Co. Ad Agency (acquired by CS2 Advertising in 2011 after Michael Thompson Sr. retired – read news story here), Southern Stores, Inc. (was once one of the largest Blockbuster Video franchise groups), and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill – Memphis.

Currently, I am a consultant for several liberty organizations and am working full-time for the Tennessee Firearms Association, with a few interns of my own.

That being said, let me potentially save you #JournoInterns from making some of the damaging mistakes that i’ve seen over the years and hopefully, provide a little advice for success along the way.  You ready?  Here we go.


20 Ways to NOT be #ThatIntern

Part I of IV

asleep at desk

20.  Don’t Be Cocky

You’re not too good for administrative tasks and you’re there to learn about many aspects of the company or organization. I’ve spoken to many managers who say that their interns seem too proud to do what is asked of them.  Entitled

The students who seem to think they are too good to do menial type work don’t get ahead.  Sure, there are CEOs who don’t have a clue how to use Excel or how to Tweet but they probably started out building their career before there was such a thing as Microsoft Word or Twitter.

Know that some tasks may be a test and even if your first task doesn’t seem to be worthy of your talent or potential, jump right in and show enthusiasm.

i don't work for free gif

Many times a task will build upon a previous one, so if you do a mediocre job on the simple things, then there is no way your boss will help you step up to the big projects.  You’ll have to walk a bit before they let you run.

Also, remember, that some tasks just need to be taken care of and as troubling as it may be to hear, your manager’s time is probably better spent doing something else and your time is less expensive to the client.

No, you didn’t go to college in order to learn to make coffee or get a discount at Starbucks, but it’s a fact of office life, which often falls to the newbie.

Get over it.  Do you know the ridiculous number of “Brownie” points you might get for actually offering to do this?  It’s seen as a beacon of willingness and nobody wants to employ someone who thinks they’re too good to roll up their sleeves and take care of the humdrum tasks.  Although by the same token, I think employers are beholden to mix up an intern’s tasks and provide some real world job experience.

Show your employer that you not only know traditional office procedures but that you are up to date on innovative techniques that make you a valuable addition to the team.  More and more organizations are moving away from paper and those interns who show their knowledge of digital solutions will gain the advantage. 


19.  Listen, Listen, Listen & then….Listen Some More

Be all ears.  Listen to every word that is being spoken to you and around you.  People who are assigning jobs to you are busy themselves and they don’t want to waste their time by repeating what they are saying because you are not paying attention.

I don't remember anything anyone says

If you miss something important they told you, you are surely going to screw up the work that you were given. The person who assigned you the work will hate you and this may be your direct supervisor, their supervisor, an administrative assistant or the CEO.  Make sure you are alert and listening – carefully.


18.  Don’t Be a Know it All

Even if you think your boss and colleagues are in the wrong, it’s important to respect that they’ve been doing the job a lot longer and may know things you don’t.  This doesn’t mean that they’re incapable of being wrong, but if you believe that to be the case, by all means, handle it diplomatically.

This also means that if any of your employers misuse millennial generation terminology such as saying “twitter that message” instead of “tweet that message”, do NOT correct them on the spot or maybe not at all.

They know what they are talking about as they used the proper context for the statement.  They simply used incorrect lingo.  You know what they meant and they know what they said.  Follow their instructions and “twitter the message” without further adieu. Help them to learn the lingo by simply using the correct terminology when speaking about Twitter in the future.

Remember, your facial expressions are just that….expressive. So if you roll your eyes, they will know you that you did and please, don’t make the “annoyed face” on the “outside”.


17.  Show Up

Go to work every day and be on time, barring an extreme emergency or illness.  If you have a cold, take some DayQuil and check Pinterest for a “professional in a pinch” hairstyle so that you can get out the door and on your way to the office.  You won’t like it and you may feel like you’ve been hit by a Mack truck all day long but I promise you this – you will live AND your boss will be impressed by your dedication.

Don’t call in sick when you have a hangover because you made the choice to go out and party with your friends last night but better yet – don’t go out and party with your friends and risk putting yourself in the situation where you must make the decision.

You have your entire life to go out and party all night.  I know it seems as if THAT band will never be in town again or your best friend’s broken heart is the most important thing ever BUT trust me – it isn’t.  I’ve been there.  I remember thinking that I was going to miss out on everything.  Looking back, I honestly wish that I had paid a bit more attention to gaining the respect of co-workers and employers than whatever the name of that band was that played on that particular Wednesday night or whatever that name of that guy was who broke my friend’s heart.

Even as I write this, I know that this one is something that each person must learn for themselves.  Some people have to learn the hard way and I was one of them.

Just remember this – you may be able to get away with calling in “sick” once or possibly even twice but your employer notices this behavior and everyone notices if you come into the office looking like a hot mess.

Another no-no is requesting too much time off during your internship period. Every company has its own policy — but the experts say interns should refrain from taking too much time off for vacations, especially if the internship is only eight weeks long (or less).  This gives the appearance to your employer that you aren’t serious about your future at this point in your life.


16.  Keep it to Yourself – Online and Off


Social media is important and certainly used in everyday life. Using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn or other resources like Tumblr,  WordPress, or even SnapChat will help you build your online presence, but it can hurt you in the real world.  What you put online will be exposed to everyone, so be sure to ask yourself if it would be a good idea to put online.

Keep your shenanigans and comments off the internet and for the love of kittens – do not post any potentially questionable pictures. You may not find your statement, comment, or pictures questionable but ask yourself this: would my mom find it questionable?  how about my grandma or my father?  If the answer could be yes in the slightest – DON’T POST IT!  This also goes for making sure that the comments that your friends make are appropriate as well.  We are no better than the company we keep.

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Don’t spam coworkers’ emails. Don’t post inappropriate things on your social media profiles. Don’t make comments that contain cuss words or sexual innuendoes.  Don’t post #buffies, #nudies, #half-nudies, or #drunkies. Need I really say more?


Don’t trash talk anyone at work and don’t entertain the idea of kissing up to someone,

You might think that by being extra sticky sweet, you will earn some brownie points. The truth is – you won’t.  It makes you appear as if you have something to hide, that you aren’t serious, or that you’re a walking doormat.

so nice
At the same time, don’t let the idea of being best pals with your co-workers or employers take over.  You don’t need to be a neurotically shy intern, but you don’t need to treat your boss like your best friend, either.

Be polite and friendly but remember that he/she is your boss. There is a very thin line that you must walk – learn to distinguish where it is and how to follow the right path.  Understand where the boundaries are, and remember to never say anything that you wouldn’t repeated a thousand times over or repeated to the person about which you were speaking.

Be the person who smiles, says hello, and introduces him/herself to everybody.  Don’t be the person who causes their lunch to explode in the microwave and doesn’t clean it up.  Usually, you make your reputation on first impressions, even if you’re only at the internship for a short period of time.

like everyone ad trust no one

So make sure that everyone’s associations with you are positive because it truly makes a huge difference.  Make sure that you are known as a good person to work with and around.


15.  Don’t Play Politics

Don’t get sucked into office politics. Just don’t. You won’t do yourself any favors (or enhance your employability) by instantly becoming part of the problem.

i don't care

Make sure you’re miles away before you go off about your office nemesis.  Better yet, just avoid going off about anyone and take up yoga or something to boil off some steam.

I’ll keep this short and sweet by just echoing what you’ve heard a thousand times: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.

gossipAnd as for office romances? Don’t even think about going there.  You are there to learn and to advance your career.  Don’t be the girl (or guy) who is only interested in #love or #lust.  Be more!

Make ALL the Friends:

Whether you’re spending one month or three working with this organization, it’s important to not only network professionally, but also to network personally and socially!  Get to know everyone from the custodial team to the CEO, if you can without making it awkward. No matter what type of setting you’re working in, everyone loves a happy, enthusiastic, intern.  If they like you as a person, they’re more likely to ask you back or recommend you after your internship is over!

be nice to the secretariesBy being nice to everyone in the organization, it shows people who you are inside and what type of person you are.  Plus, the administrative assistants and the “secretaries” can be the most beneficial relationship you make during your internship.  These people who are often overlooked sometimes have the most control over your experience.  Trust me!  Be nice and don’t be a snob.


 That’s all for this month’s edition.

Stay tuned for #14 through #10.

Come back next month to learn 5 ways to NOT be #ThatIntern.