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The M Dash

Live with purpose.

5 Terrible Habits I Picked Up as an Intern

May 16, 2015

As an overly ambitious college student, I scored a lot of internships. I was determined to land a prestigious job in the entertainment industry, so proving myself as an intern was the best way to get my foot in the door. But working at big companies in a sought-after industry wasn’t what I imagined it would be. A number of disheartening experiences distorted my view of a young person’s role in the workplace.

Years later, I’m still working to rid myself of some “bad” habits and figure out how to spin them into meaningful lessons.

1. Be quiet.

If no one knows you’re there, you’re doing your job well. I never wanted to bother anyone or seem overly comfortable in the workplace.

Lesson learned: While it’s important to listen and observe, it’s just as important to develop your own voice and contribute to the team. They hired your for a reason, so speak up!

2. Be amenable.

The word “no” doesn’t exist in a good intern’s vocabulary. I did whatever was asked of me and rarely thought about how these experiences were helping me reach my career goals.

Lesson learned: It’s your life and your career. Do what you’re asked, but be proactive by being vocal about what you’d like to work on.

3. Be grateful.

“You should be happy just to be here.” After hearing this phrase time and time again, my self-worth became nonexistent.

Lesson learned: It is important to appreciate the opportunities in front of you, but it’s just as important to appreciate yourself! You’re working hard, and you deserve all that comes to you.

4. Never take a break.

As an intern, you’re always on call. I felt guilty taking lunch and would linger in the bathroom rather than take a breather outside.

Lesson learned: You are not a machine. Take breaks (within reason) and spend time learning how to balance your personal and professional life.

5. Never complain.

When someone tells you how to do something, just smile and nod. I sometimes spent hours completing a task my boss’s way, when I could have completed it in minutes using my own system.

Lesson learned: Just because a superior tells you to do something one way, it doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Learning how to politely ask for help or suggest a different method is key. Better yet: It will differentiate you as an initiative-taker.

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Melissa studied communications at NYU and has been communicating ever since. She's the former programming coordinator at the New York Television Festival and has worked as a script coordinator and freelance writer on television and digital productions throughout New York. Read more of Melissa's posts.

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