7 Things You Shouldn’t Do At Your Internship, Co-op Or Summer Job


Remember that one time when you thought your orange corduroy pants went absolutely perfectly with your neon velvet blazer? Back then, it took a stares and a few good friends to help you realize what not to wear.

When it comes to your internship or co-op position, we want to be those friends.

Landing an internship or co-op is great for getting hands-on experience in your field of choice, putting what you’ve learned in the classroom to practical use in the workplace. However, like socks with sandals, there are a few things that you should just simply not do.

To make sure you work it out in style, here are our guidelines for what not to do at your internship, co-op or summer job.

1. Don’t slack because it’s not a “real job”

While co-op placements and internships may not be technically a “real job,” the work and opportunity that they present are no lie.

Regardless of whether it’s an unpaid internship or a co-op placement for course credit, showing up on time and working hard will not only make your experience better, it could help turn that placement into a “real” job in the future.

2. Don’t go in blank

Getting an internship or co-op placement can be challenging, but once you get one, don’t just sit back and wait for the ride to begin. Learn about the company you’re working for, the different departments that you’ll be exposed to and figure out what it is that you want to get out of the experience.

Communicate your goals to your boss and work with them to make sure you make the most of your internship/co-op.

3. Don’t fly under the radar

When going into a new work environment, it can be tempting to fade into the background. However, since internships and co-ops are short-term placements, you need to utilize your time in the office to leave a positive impression.

Network within the office and get to know your colleagues and your boss. Once you leave the office, these people can be great industry contacts for future jobs openings or mentorship so build relationships. You want to be on their radar, not flying under it.

4. Don’t shy away from challenging tasks

It is scary going from the classroom to the workplace and being given actual responsibilities. When your boss asks you to take on a big project, don’t shy away for fear of failure. You are super intern/co-op student and you can do it! Internships and co-ops are designed for you to learn so it’s no time to play it safe. As they say, you’ll never know what you can do until you try.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Just because you studied the job description doesn’t mean that you’ll know how to do everything once you start working. Internships and co-op placements are about learning how your industry works outside of the classroom and in the real world so if things don’t make sense or if something is confusing, ask for help.

Getting clarification or assistance with something that you don’t understand is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it shows a commitment to getting the job done right.

6. Don’t whine about your work

Internships and co-op placements may not be the most glamorous of positions. Sometimes you have to do data input and, occasionally, your day may be filled with filing, but that is part of the job. Whining about your work will only make you appear ungrateful for the position that you have.

If you are unhappy and feeling that you’re not learning, don’t complain, do something about it. Get your work done and talk to your boss about shadowing people in other departments or see if you can help your colleagues with their projects.

7. Don’t leave without saying thank you

When it comes time to wrap up your co-op or internship placement, be sure to show your appreciation to the people who helped you learn about the industry. Thank your bosses and your colleagues for the time they spent with you. Ending on a high note will help solidify those work contacts for the future.

Photo credit: Do Not Breakdown by Juli on Flickr
About the author

Ishani Nath is a proud McMaster alum, aspiring writer and current journalism grad student at Ryerson University. When she's not hammering out articles, she can usually be found on a patio or nestled on a couch trying to keep up with those crazy Kardashians. She hopes to one day have a job that makes her excited to get up each morning, or at least one that gives her free food. Intrigued? Enthralled? Learn more by following her on @ishaninath.