Starting an internship? What to do and what not to do for a successful experience

by Jul 31, 2023

Embarking on your first internship can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. It’s a valuable opportunity to gain practical experience in a professional environment. However, the fear of making mistakes or not knowing what’s expected of you might make the journey daunting. Fear not! In this quick guide, we’ll walk you through the do’s and don’ts of internships, helping you make the most of this learning experience.

1. DO: Take advantage of training and support programs

Many organisations offer training opportunities and support programs for their interns. These can include workshops, events, or even access to online learning platforms like LinkedIn Learning. Embracing any of these opportunities can allow you to enrich your skillset and boost your understanding of the industry. Additionally, don’t hesitate to ask questions, and learn from your supervisor and colleagues if there is anything you’d like to know more about.

2. DON’T: Assume you will remember everything

During your internship, you’ll receive a wealth of information. You might start to feel overwhelmed by everything, but remember that no one expects you to be an expert! Take notes in whatever way works for you to keep track of details, processes, and projects. Keep in mind that it is perfectly normal not to learn everything about your organisation and industry during your internship. Just take on board as much as you can! 

Spongebob cartoon fish characters writing notes

(You, writing notes in your internship)

3. DO: Be yourself

While we need to stay professional in work settings, don’t shy away from showcasing your personality. By sharing a bit about yourself and getting to know your colleagues, you can make meaningful connections and a lasting impression. Embrace your authentic self by creating a professional but personal work wardrobe, lightly decorating your desk, and letting a bit of your personality drive your work. This can lead to a more fulfilling and enjoyable internship experience.

4. DON’T: Be unprofessional

Professionalism is crucial during your internship. While professionalism means something different to different people and generations, there are some general things you should avoid in an office environment.


  • Oversharing personal information
  • Excessive negativity
  • Complaining about tasks assigned to you
  • Wearing casual, dirty, or unprofessional clothes in the office
  • Continuously showing up late to work
  • Taking excessive time off without explanation

Instead, demonstrate enthusiasm and a positive attitude. Meet deadlines, take your internship seriously, and dress appropriately for the workplace. Don’t get me wrong, I love those Gen Z email signoff slideshows on TikTok as much as the next person, but it’s best to keep your work emails professional by avoiding slang and spelling errors, and only using humour where relevant. 

5. DO: Ask for feedback

Feedback is invaluable for personal and professional growth. However, often with the business of work, your supervisor may forget to make time to give you feedback. If you’re about halfway into your internship and haven’t received feedback, take the initiative to organise a meeting to go through your work. Discuss your progress, actively listen and learn from their input. If you need some more guidance, we have a blog post that goes into more depth on how to ask for feedback at work.


I try to proactively ask my manager for feedback so that I don’t get 🫣blindsided🫣 by negative feedback / constructive criticism during times that really matter—like review cycles! #careertok #techtok #confidenceatwork #performancereview #careeradvice

♬ original sound – Alex | Career Queen

6. DON’T: Take feedback personally

Feedback, whether positive or negative, is about your work, not your self-worth. Avoid personalising criticism, and remain open to learning and improvement. Know that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them. Your internship is an opportunity for you to enhance your skills and become a better professional.

7. DO: Network with others

Internships offer a unique chance to expand your professional network. Connect with fellow interns, colleagues, and other professionals you encounter. Building these relationships could lead to future career opportunities and invaluable connections.

8. DON’T: Wait around and do nothing

Take initiative and be proactive in seeking tasks and responsibilities. If you find yourself with nothing to do, don’t hesitate to ask for additional assignments. Demonstrating enthusiasm and a willingness to contribute will leave a positive impression with your supervisor and colleagues.

Boy looking bored at desk

Don’t be this kid

9. DO: Know your rights

While internships sometimes involve little or no compensation, they should provide valuable learning experiences. Understand your rights as an intern and ensure that your internship is mutually beneficial. If you feel you aren’t gaining meaningful knowledge, communicate your concerns with your supervisor, or reach out to your local fair work organisation, such as the Australian Government’s Fair Work Ombudsman.

Infographic on ethical internships

Image courtesy of MEAA

10. DON’T: forget to document your internship

Throughout your internship, keep a journal or notes to record your experiences, lessons learned, and personal growth. Reflecting on these aspects can help you gain valuable insights and make the most of your internship journey. Make it shine!


Starting an internship is an excellent opportunity to learn, grow, and prepare for your future career. By following these do’s and don’ts, you’ll be better equipped to make the most of this valuable experience. Embrace challenges, seek feedback, build connections, and remain proactive – your internship will undoubtedly become a stepping stone towards a successful professional journey.

You’ve got this!


Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Amelia Bussing

Amelia Bussing

Communications Assistant

Amelia is a Sydney-based writing and communications enthusiast working at UTS Careers as a Communications Assistant. She is UTS Alumni who studied a Bachelor of Communications (Creative Writing & Advertising), and a Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation. She is passionate about creativity, storytelling, and the art of a well-timed gif, and has a vast collection of crazy socks.