The internship is a valuable learning opportunity for any business student. In fact, they can make-or-break a job candidate’s shot at breaking into a new industry or target company. That’s why it is so it’s also useful to learn from others’ internship experiences so you don’t make the same mistakes.
Kimberly A. Whitler, a contributor at Forbes, recently spoke to MBA interns about what common mistakes they have made and how they can be avoided.
Expectation Versus Reality
Having clear communication with your manager is key to you landing a full-time position and learning as much as you can.
Mike Burke of University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business interned in the consumer-packaged goods (CPG) industry as an MBA student. He tells Forbes that his biggest mistake was not having a clear understanding of what his manager’s expectations were. Burke says interns should dedicate at least half an hour a week with their manager to ensure expectations are being met.
“Type up notes directly after those meetings and send an email to your manager ensuring you have complete understanding of what was said,” Burke tells Forbes. “If feasible, set a goal of having your final presentation or project complete two weeks before its due date so that you have ample time to incorporate feedback and course-correct.”
Once you get feedback, it’s best to be open to given advice. Business Insider reports that taking criticism personally is one of the top mistakes interns can make.
“Don’t tolerate bullying or disrespect but do grow a thick skin,” Kerry Schofield, a psychologist and the chief psychometrics officer at professional assessment and self-improvement platform Good.Co, tells Business Insider. “That way you’ll learn from your mistakes instead of repeating them.”
Collaborate with Fellow Interns
On top of working with your manager, it’s also crucial to build relationships with your fellow interns. Kelly McHugh Chtcheprov of Duke’s Fuqua School of Business interned in the tech industry and tells Forbes that connecting with her fellow interns allowed for more opportunities.
“This cohort not only creates a safe space to ask basic questions, but also allows you to find overlaps and opportunities to connect your projects, as was the case for me,” she tells Business Insider. “In addition to improving the quality of your work, leveraging your cohort demonstrates to your manager that you have the skills and the mindset to be a great team member as a full time hire.”
Asking Good Questions
One of the best things an intern can do is ask questions. Mark DesMeules of SC Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University tells Forbes that the first week of an internship is a golden opportunity and critical moment to ask good questions.
“Asking smart questions will help you both stand out and succeed,” he tells Forbes. “While asking questions shouldn’t be limited to your first week, challenges down the road can be mitigated if you work to gain a strong understanding of your summer assignment early on.”
Kristy Posocco is the deputy director of the Career Development Office at the Yale School of Management. In an interview with Top MBA, Posocco says it’s important for interns to seek input and feedback by asking questions. “It’s incumbent upon the intern to ask for and capture feedback that can be critical to a successful project,” Posocco tells Top MBA.
Posocco also stresses the first few weeks of the internship as a critical moment to ask questions and seek feedback. “Leaving questions till the end of an internship can lead to negative feedback on things you could have fixed early on,” she says.
An internship is the foundation to a strong career. More than simply a resume builder, internships can serve as learning opportunities. It’s best to learn from other’s mistakes rather than repeating them on your own.