Years ago I wrote about a graduate college student who had stolen art work from a museum during his internship. Everyone was pretty clear about that being theft and not expected internship behavior. Not only was that intern dismissed from his job, but he was also criminally prosecuted.
I was reminded of that incident while having a conversation with a technology manager who was asking for advice on speaking with an intern who apparently was routinely watching movies, unrelated to work, during business hours. The director found out when one of his direct reports stopped by his office to ask, “Do you know what your intern is out here doing?
When the director went to the intern’s cubicle, he was surprised to see the intern fully engrossed into watching a movie. In fact, when the director asked the intern about the status of the project he had been assigned, the intern casually minimized the screen and pulled up a chair for the director to sit. The intern proceeded to explain that he had hit a roadblock with the project and was waiting for the director to come by.
Needless to say, when the director asked the intern to not just minimize the screen, but to close it, the intern seemed a little shocked.
So this isn’t theft and the intern, therefore, won’t be prosecuted. However, interns still need to know what is appropriate expected internship behavior in the workplace. So if you are an intern, before you are tempted to jump into a movie when you hit a roadblock, here are some no-brainer internship behaviors to model:
Be proactive and seek solutions. If you are stuck, ask questions. This is a good way to make connections in the workplace.
Observe the rules of the workplace. If you don’t see anyone else watching movies at their desk, it is probably not workplace behavior.
Yes, we understand that interns today are born into a wired world and it is harder than ever to separate work from private life, but your success as an intern depends on it.
Remember that you will want more than the experience from your internship. You will want networking contacts and professional references.
If you are working in an internship, you are expected to represent yourself and your college in the most professional way possible.