Fetching Coffee And Other Intern Duties
Fetching Coffee And Other Intern Duties
Eric J. Kuhn (Intern) gives expert video advice on: How do I know what my duties are as an intern?; I go to a top-20 college, isn't getting coffee beneath me?; What am I supposed to learn from menial tasks like photocopying? and more...
I go to a top-20 college, isn't getting coffee beneath me?
It doesn't matter what school you go to, or how smart you are. You are an intern. That is your gig. You're going to have to do some of the grunt work to be able to get some of the great work. When you do the great work, you're going to do it really well. That's great, but you also have to do the other stuff. It's what comes with the territory.
What am I supposed to learn from menial tasks like photocopying?
Every task that you do, you might not learn something. And that's okay. Getting someone's coffee might not learn a lot, except for the Starbucks woman's name. Which is fine, too. But it helps. And it just helps to get to know different people. And you know, someone might say, "Oh, who are you giving that coffee to? Can you get me coffee?" And all of a sudden you've expanded your network. You've linked in. And so it's okay if you don't learn everything. But you know what? It's about being helpful and about being a small, small link in a very big chain. Or being the glue between many big bricks. And don't think that you're not important, because you are important. An intern is a very important part of the fabric of many organizations, because they're small, but they're important in what they do. Because you're getting coffee, because you're making photocopies, your boss can be spending time doing something else. So, even if it's a small, menial task, it's really in the bigger picture very important in keeping everything together.
What should I be willing to do or unwilling to do as an intern?
You are an intern and it's best to know that you are an intern. You are not going to move this company, this corporation in the direction that you want to take it yet. What you have to do is do everything. Sweep the floors, turn on the lights, turn off lights, get the coffee, do an assignment, do this, do that, and slowly but surely over the month or two or three that you're there, you're going to be getting great stuff. You're also going to have to do some of the other stuff. It's like teachers who love to teach, but hate to grade. It's part of the territory. You have to do it. Ivy league, whether you go to Harvard or a community college, you're all on the same plane and it's the work ethic that you bring to this situation that will make you the superstar.
Is it OK to get other interns to do my work for me?
Don't let the other interns help you on your project because they might screw up and then it's your fault. If you think you know what you're doing, just do it yourself. You don't want that other guy screwing you up and it's then a situation of "oh, the other intern did it" or "you passed onto the other intern?"
What if someone who isn't my supervisor asks me to do something?
You should absolutely do it. But just let your supervisor know, hey, so and so ,asked me to do something. Is that okay? Your supervisor will probably say yes. But if you have another assignment that's pressing, and that your supervisor gave you, you need to do that first. You need to tell the other person, 'I'm swamped', 'Either I can do it later for you', or 'I really can't do it.' And if , you really can't do it because you have eight million things on the job. That's okay. That's fine. They'll understand.
What if my boss asks me to do personal errands for him or her?
It's a fine line you walk. Every now and then I think a personal errand is fine. If your boss is really asking you to pick up her dry-cleaning every single morning, I mean what are you really going to do about it? I don't think it's the most appropriate thing, but sometimes you just need to sort of do it.
Should I ever rat out my boss?
Loyalty to your boss is so important. It's one of the most important things. Do really good work for your boss but also stand up for him. Never gossip about him, never participate in office politics especially when it has to do with your boss. Stay to the background, you don't need to get involved. If you work directly for someone you probably know a lot about them. You take their calls, you check their email, and it's really important to keep that to yourself. You don't know what's not important and what is important. So what you think is menial and can just share with someone on the phone might actually be really big. So it's important that you build trust with your boss and really just never say anything. If the worst comes to worst, and I say it all the time, when people are yelling at me and whatever, I'll say "You know what I'm really sorry but I'm just the intern". Push it off on the internship and say I don't really know. People are like "I want to know this and that" and I'm like "I don't know", and that's okay. Because it's better so say "I don't know, I'm the intern", than to give out even the slightest bit of information that could really be damaging.
What if I make a mistake while interning?
If you made a mistake, the best thing that you can do is be truthful and honest about it and tell someone right away, because it's so much better to tell someone right away than to wait and have it linger. Then maybe they're eight million steps ahead of you and yet that one hiccup could screw up everything. So just say it right away. "Hey, so sorry. Forgot to do this. Made this mistake. Here it is. Let's fix it. I'll fix it for you. Can you help me with it?" Why would you make the mistake? Well, try to figure it out. Try to correct it. But just let people know. Honesty is the best policy.
What could give me a bad reputation as an intern?
There are so many things that can give you a bad reputation as an intern. There are probably more things that can give you a bad reputation than a good reputation. A lot of these things are simple things that you can control, such as talking on your cell phone about your weekend plans, coming in and falling asleep. Have coffee! Or screwing up all the time, or lying -- you should never, never lie. I can't tell you how many people lie. And if you lie, you will get caught--hands down, period. And it's even the smallest things, just do not lie. Be truthful. Be honest with people. Again, you're the intern so it's OK to make mistakes, it's OK to not be a superstar every single time. Just do your best. If you're annoying, if you're alway asking "hey, I'm really bored," if you just walk around and talk with people and schmooze but you never work, you never do anything that's productive, that's a problem. Getting someone a cold frappuccino when they really want a hot coffee, that's a problem because you look like a moron. Not really understanding what you're supposed to do every single time and always screwing up is a real big problem.
What will drive my boss crazy?
The list is endless, chewing gum all the time, showing up to meetings late, showing up to work late, missing days without communicating with your boss. Communicate with your boss. If you want to take a day off just tell him and chances are it will be okay. If you want to go out for a night and you just want to leave work a little bit early say hey is it OK if so-and-so, rather than just sneak out and don't do it all the time but once or twice, you're allowed to have fun while you're an intern.