Her Question: We’ll be starting internships soon and I had a question: What should I do if I make a mistake during my internship?
Our Answer: Start by taking a deep breath and remember that mistakes are part of the learning process, and every intern (and full-time employee, for that matter) makes a few.
We haven’t met an intern who has yet to make an error, but you know what? That’s completely okay. We don’t expect interns to know everything. That’s why they’re here – to learn! So, if you make a mistake, don’t panic. It will be fine.
While your first reaction may be to cover it up so you don’t get in trouble with the boss, we’d actually rather you to step forward and let us know what happened. That way, we can correct it as soon as possible. Trust us. It’s much better to admit you screwed up and ask for help than to ignore it. By not reacting right away, you actually risk worsening the situation, depending on what it is.
If it was a small error, simply apologize and offer to help fix it. Do your best not to let it happen again (it’s a bit of a pet peeve to have to correct someone on the same error more than twice) and try to observe the steps taken to solve the problem. That way, you really understand the impact your mistake had and are more likely to not repeat it in the future. Win-win!
For more complicated errors, sometimes your senior team may need to move quickly, and they may not have time to explain all the steps they’re taking to improve the situation. If there is something you don’t understand, make a note of it so you can discuss it with your manager later. After the dust has settled, ask your higher-ups if they can go over the steps they took to recover the error, and consider it a learning experience. And again, remember to apologize – humble pie may not be delicious, but it should be part of the menu sometimes.
Being upfront about a mistake shows maturity and honesty, two qualities any potential employer loves to see. Everyone makes mistakes and a good employer will help you learn from it, rather than chastising you or making you feel badly.
Trying to solve the issue or at least coming up with some suggestions to correct your mistake shows you’re taking your job seriously and are willing to work to learn. We love that.
Got a burning PR question that you want us to answer? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll feature you on a future Teacher’s Pet.