Five things you must not do during your internship if you ever want a real job

Before you get to the stage of asking for a full-time job, make sure you haven’t fallen prey to these common behaviors that will undermine your chances.

Five things you must not do during your internship if you ever want a real job
[Photo: andresr/Getty Images]

This story is part of Fast Company’s editorial package “The Intern Economy.” In the spirit of back to school and new opportunities to learn beyond the classroom, we’ve collected the personal stories of interns and managers to reveal what this step on the first rung of the career ladder means for the future of work. Click here to read all the stories in the series.


Your summer internship is ending, and your mission is to turn it into a real job. You are nervous, you don’t want to be rejected, and you don’t know where to start.

To begin, make sure you’ve told your supervisor that you are interested in a job at the company. It’s also imperative that you ask that person for advice on how to get jobs at their specific company. So many interns ask for advice but forget to write it down, consider it, and put it into action. Make sure you take the time to follow the directions your supervisor provides on how to turn the internship into the job.

But before you even get to that stage, you need to pay careful attention to what you should not do at your internship to ensure you make a good impression.

Don’t be unreliable

You have to show up, not ask to leave early, and never be late. Just be that consistent face in the office where no one has to think about it—or ask “where’s ____?” Remember, showing up is half the battle.

Don’t be “too busy” for the internship

We all have personal lives, weddings to attend, and vacations lined up (or at least we hope to). Don’t disappear for days at a time during your internship. If you are never in the office, you won’t get the learning experience you signed up for, and the company won’t have an opportunity to teach you or connect with you. Try to limit your requests to take time off to no more than five business days (and less is better).

Don’t roll your eyes when given certain tasks

Some tasks are fun—some tasks are boring—welcome to the real world. Look for the learning objective behind each task and what you can really take from it.


Don’t NOT show up to a work event

If your coworkers ask you to work or volunteer at an event, do whatever you need to do to show up, be there, and be helpful. Better yet, stay until the very end—or at least until no one else needs anything else. Whenever we invite a student to attend an event and they don’t show or flake, I’m immediately unimpressed.

Don’t get distracted

Don’t scroll on your phone or pretend to be working on something on your laptop during meetings or calls that you are invited to attend and observe. Do what you can to show that you are focused on and engaged in the conversation. Better yet, take out a pen and paper and take notes.

What to do next

When you have the opportunity to intern within a corporate environment, pay attention to how the executives spend and manage their time, how they take notes, and how they conduct themselves in meetings. Take every possible opportunity to listen in to calls, sit in on meetings, and get introduced to as many different professionals as possible.

Speak up if you want a job

If you want the internship to turn into a job (either now or down the road), be vocal about that and ask for advice. “I want to let you know that I’d love to work here after I graduate and/or when my internship is over. What steps can I take to remain in touch and stay on your radar for consideration?”


Perhaps you finish the internship and decide this specific industry isn’t for you. Should this be the case, make sure you stay in contact with everyone from the company, as you never know where people will be working in the next few years. And make sure you can clearly articulate your transferrable skills from one opportunity to the next.

Show gratitude

Did you have a really great day at your internship? Did an executive give you a new task? Did anyone challenge you today? Send them a short email and let them know that you appreciate the opportunity and hope to work with them more. Send a handwritten thank-you note to your supervisors when you finish up your time with them. These are little steps that can go a long way.


Lauren Berger is CEO and founder of both and and has helped connect over 6 million people with their dream careers. Her latest book is Get It Together: Ditch the Chaos, Do the Work, Design Your Success, and she has been a featured keynote at more than 200 colleges, universities, leadership conferences, and entrepreneurship events.