“To err is to be human” we all make mistakes. If you make a mistake own up. The mistake is generally not the problem, it is how you react that means more. Learn form mistakes and don’t make the same one again!
Ask when you need help – it may hurt your pride a little but it can be quicker and more efficient than trying to find an answer and perhaps not ending up with the right or appropriate one. But don’t ask for everything – you will be expected to use your initiative to some degree. Develop your ability to ask the right question.
You are not alone. There are many students like you experiencing the same difficulties at the same time. Some of them may even be nearby you. Get in touch with your peers. Share your concerns and experience and get support from your peers.
Keep busy. A balance of jobs is good because in your “down time” on one project you can fill in on another – it also helps you develop your Project Management skills. If you find you have too much “down time” be proactive and discuss this with your supervisor. Perhaps offer to help others in your work group but don’t put your own work schedule and deliverables at risk. Try not to overcommit yourself. “Under committing and over achieving” is better than “over committing and under achieving”.
Don't rely on your memory – unless you have an exceptional memory take notes and use a hard backed book rather than loose sheets of paper. A hard backed book is useful where you need to make notes standing up or on your lap when there is no desk to rest on. In fast paced meetings try using a mindmap to note all the key points being made.
Talk to people – don't be shy. When you go for a coffee, lunch or are waiting at the photocopier talk to anyone around. Introduce yourself, say who you are and what you are doing and ask them who they are and what they do. Show interest. Ask open questions and look them in the eye, but don’t stare, there is a fine line between making someone feel comfortable and uncomfortable. Actively listen – you learn more listening than you do talking. Learn a few ‘ice-breaker’ questions.
“Don’t think, just do” is great in a command and control situation. “Think before you do” is much better in ALL other situations!
Think about your personal hygiene. Whilst a most unsavoury topic it is very uncomfortable for you and your supervisor if you need to be told you need a shower or breath freshener. Body odour, smelly feet, bad breath can all be masked temporarily and dealt with. Pay attention to these at all times and avoid potential embarrassment – or worse people just actively avoiding you without saying anything.
Become good at what you do. Being labelled as the ‘expert’ in something shows real value in you and will look great on a reference. It can be anything form a computer programme, social media system to a specific work related technique. Take the time outside of work to learn ‘around’ the immediate needs of your job.
When at work – Work! Don't sit around surfing the web, texting, playing online games or worst online gambling. These are all definite no-no’s. Be professional.
Impress with the work you do. Meet objectives and deadlines but also think broader – talk to others about the bigger picture and use the information to enrich your work – but don't try and be clever!
Show respect to everyone you work with irrespective of their gender, race, religion, beliefs, etc. Working with people from different backgrounds and cultures can be great experience but may be challenging at times.
See also Getting the most out of your internship.