A Note to Interns: Some Things You Really, Really Shouldn't Do This Summer

Of course, not all interns behave badly, but let this list also be a warning to managers and founders.

learn more about Meredith Fineman

By Meredith Fineman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It's intern season.

Each summer, students make a pilgrimage to an office and learn what it's like to be a part of a team, have work that has real, live consequences, and sometimes, do a lot of filing.

Related: What You Need to Know When Hiring Interns

I hire interns, and they've done things for FinePoint that I deeply, deeply appreciate. I'm amazed at what my interns can and have done and I am grateful all the time. However, behavioral and professional norms are deteriorating. Fast.

Almost to the point of no return. So here are some basic, basic tips, all from real-life examples -- some from my own experience, some from other entrepreneurs. First off, don't wear flip-flops (to the White House or otherwise, unless told its okay).

  • You may: Ask about parameters, payments, timing, and your day-to-day activities.
  • You may not: Ask after a casual phone screener whether you're getting the internship, because it's a long drive to meet your potential temporary employer. You also, under no circumstances, should tell a potential employer you're using their company to get experience for your own reasons and have no interest in the industry at all.
  • You may: Ask for more responsibilities and meet your duties, however big or small, with a grin, especially if you're at a startup, where everyone has to do everything.
  • You may not: Expect to get exactly the kind of work you want (at least immediately). Not only does working for someone else not exactly work that way, but you have to show you're responsible with the smaller stuff and do it with aplomb to be given higher-up work.

Related: The 16 Biggest Tech Intern Fails

  • You may: Tell your manager when you will be away this summer, in advance.
  • You may not: Text that you aren't coming in because you aren't feeling well or that you are quitting. Anything important should not go in a text message, or in text form if you can help it. Sure, we're hyper-connected, but not only should you not be putting things in print for your own protection, it's poor etiquette.
  • You may: Ask for certain things you want, but know you may not get them.
  • You may not: Say you're taking another offer four days before you're supposed to start (this just happened to me).
  • You may: Ask for a letter of recommendation.
  • You may not: Not do it in person.
  • Most importantly, finish strong.

Don't leave strings hanging, don't fall off the face of the earth or decide to do a different project without telling your superior. Not only does it affect you, your professional goals and image, but it really does affect whomever you're working for. You never know how an internship could help you -- get you a job, give you the guidance and mentorship you need. More than anything, treat it with respect. We all want interns to succeed -- I always want whoever works with me during a summer or semester to hopefully be someone who can stick around.

Also -- a handwritten thank you note goes farther than you could ever imagine.

It's worth noting -- I love my interns, mostly, as long as they don't do the above behaviors.

Related: Yes, You Can Sleep In and Still Be Successful

Meredith Fineman

Entrepreneur and Writer; Founder FinePoint

Meredith Fineman is the founder of FinePoint Digital PR, which specializes in personal profile raising and helping leaders find their voice, online and offline. Fineman is also a freelance writer with nine years of experience and has been published in outlets such as Harvard Business Review, LifeHacker, The Washington Post and Travel & Leisure.

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