5 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid as an Intern or Entry-Level Talent

Are you getting ready to embark on your first internship or job right out of college? If so, you should be careful to avoid certain rookie mistakes in order to give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in your new role. As a previous Director of Career Services and Recruiter, I’ve seen numerous employee mistakes that could have been avoided if the talent was made aware of what not do before they started their position.

Here’s some of my favorite to avoid:

1) Showing up late and not calling ahead of time.

This is a sure way to make a poor first day impression and annoy any boss or internship manager. It is not ok to wait until you are already 20 minutes late to call and say that you are running late. By that point it is already too late! This is a rookie mistake that happens all to often and should be avoided at all costs. If you think you are not going to make it to the office at the required start time then you should call at least 10 minutes before your are late to notify your manager. This shows that you value other peoples’ time and gives the manager a chance to adjust their schedule.

2) Neglecting to thank those that help you.
As you start out in your career there are many people that will help you along the way. Whether it is training you to use the company intranet or offering you guidance on how to submit a request to helpdesk, you will have to ask for help at some point of your employment. Don’t forget to thank those who help you to get acclimated to your new environment. Showing appreciation for your peers in the workplace can go a long way when starting a new job and not doing so can be viewed as being ungrateful or obtuse.

3) Not owning up to your mistakes
Honesty really is the best policy when it comes to the workplace. If you make a mistake on a project or forget to do something that was asked of you, own up to your error immediately. This could actually build trust among your peers and boss. Everyone will know you are human and make mistakes but even more importantly, they will see that you have the willingness to admit your mistake for the betterment of the team. Not doing so will come back to bite you in the rear! Often times, it is important to admit when an error was made because it can have a chain effect on other peoples’ duties and projects. If you are working as part of a team, it is extremely important for everyone to be on the same page. Not owning up to a mistake right away could cause larger problems down the road.

4) Being too casual.
As a newbie it is often advised to do a lot of listening for at least the first 30 days. Keep your personal opinions to yourself or you might end up sticking your foot in your mouth by offending people you do not really know or understand. Take some time to learn about the culture of the company before you start calling your boss, “Dude!” Asking questions is fine but talking to others as if you are at a college dorm party is not appropriate. Hold back from over-sharing too much personal information and try to keep things focused on business. After you are settled in the role for a couple months you will have a better understanding of what is appropriate within the culture of the organization.

5) Saying, “That’s not my job!”
This is a sure fire way to not look like a “team player.” Maybe you said it because you feel overloaded already and are a bit overwhelmed. Yes, everyone has a job description but a job description can never illustrate what will be required of you as an employee over the term of your employment. New projects come up and responsibilities change depending on needs and available resources. Look at these times as opportunities to stretch your skills and duties. So if your boss or someone else asks you to help with something that seems unfamiliar to you then be honest about your abilities and availability and if you can do it then try saying something like: I’ve never done that before in my current role but I am open to trying something new.” This type of response will enable you more opportunities in the future and others will recognize you as someone they can depend on and possibly promote in the future.

About the Contributor
Marc Scoleri, CEO Creative Village, LLC and Co-Founder of www.creativeinterns.com has over 15 years of experience in creative recruiting, career development and talent management. Numerous companies including Apple, Marvel Entertainment, CNBC, McGraw-Hill, and HBO have worked with Marc to recruit student interns; many of them have been recruited as entry-level employees. These companies benefit by having a steady pipeline of creative interns before they hire talent full-time thus saving them thousands of dollars on recruiting costs and lowering their risk of poor hires. In addition, a quality internship program can identify talent that fits a company’s culture.