Top 3 mistakes students make in their internships:
1. Not taking enough initiative
Once you’ve been on the job for a while you should be able to work independently on projects without asking for too much direction from your supervisor. Of course, you should check in with your supervisor on a regular basis and make sure you’re on the same page, but you’re there to help with the work load, not create more work (and believe me, supervising an intern is work).
2. Acting like an expert
The reverse of the first point is that you take too much initiative without input from your supervisor and strike out on your own – but in the wrong direction. I’ve had internship supervisors complain that their students’ sometimes need to learn when to act and when to step back; when to speak and when to listen. Yes, you may have completed all your coursework and you may even have some experience in the human services field. But your supervisor, and oftentimes your clients or those you’re working with, likely have much more experience and knowledge. You should remember that you’re there to learn.
3. Not taking the internship seriously
An internship is a great learning experience for you. You can ask questions and make mistakes in a “safe” environment. However, it’s also a big commitment on the agency’s part and they expect you to show up and do the work you’ve promised to do. I’ve had students forget to go to their placement, frequently call in sick or say they can’t come, or commit to work that they don’t complete. While you’re not getting paid, the agency you’re working for may be depending on you just as they do their employees and you should treat your placement like a job. Show up when you say you will, do the work you said you would, follow up on your commitments. Not only will you learn something, but you’ll make a good impression on your supervisors – hopefully earning a good letter of recommendation for the future!