The Valiant Virtuoso

The story of an Advertising intern at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

What to do—and not to do—when you make a mistake during an internship.

Hello, friends! I hope everything is going well in your neck of the woods. It’s 79 degrees F and rainy here in D.C. (wow, now I sound like a meteorologist!).

Last week, I made a mistake during my internship. If you remember from my last post (which maybe you don’t—it was pretty logistical in terms of what I do on a daily basis), one of my main assignments is to write email campaigns. After I compose my first email draft, I am supposed to send the email off to other staff members in what is called “the routing process.” This step is very important, as it is a way for more experienced staff to review my work and provide comments so that I can improve my writing in the future. Well, being seven weeks into the internship and thinking that I had a grasp on all of the steps… I completely forgot to route and, instead, I sent the email to the marketer telling him that it was “ready to send.” Well, needless to say, it wasn’t ready…

…At all. And it was sent to over 3,000 email subscribers.

The good thing about this “mistake” is that the email did not have any errors. My boss actually informed me that, had the email entered through the routing process, it probably wouldn’t have received any emails because it looked like it was ready to go! Nevertheless, I was—and still am—hard on myself because, even though things turned out ok, I still made an error… and who wants to make mistakes? We’re all perfect, right?

In this post, I have decided to dedicate it to things to remember when you make a mistake during your internship because, after all, we are not perfect. Check out these four reminders and tips:

  1. Internships are learning opportunities. I was reading a really informative article the other day on the topic of internships and mistakes. To be honest, I started reading articles as an attempt to console myself after making one of my own. But either way, it’s important to remember that, at the end of the day, internships are opportunities for you to grow in whatever line of work you find yourself—writing, interpreting data, conducting interviews, making charts, etc. As such, mistakes are ok because, in order to learn and develop, we need to see what works and what does not.
  2. You are not the only one. If you think that you are the only intern to misspell a word on a website, know that you are not alone. To be perfectly honest, I have yet to hear of an instance where a person had not made a mistake during their internship experience. I am not trying to say that we should just go forth and make error-on-error, but rather, know that we all make mistakes—we just need to handle them in a professional and constructive manner.

(And now, here are things to do after you make a mistake.)

3. Seek feedback from your mentor and/or supervisor. After making a mistake, it’s important to speak with your mentor and/or supervisor to discuss the error that was made, what you’ve learned from the situation, and how you’re going to move forward. At times, this may even prompt you to re-examine your goals and learning objectives. Not only will this conversation show that you are being proactive, it is also a good indicator that you are not one to dwell on the mistakes that you have made—instead, you are willing to learn from them and improve your work as you move forward.

4. Continuing maintaining a positive attitude and be professional. Now that you have put your office mistake behind you, keep up your positive attitude and take initiative. Show others that inaccuracies or errors are not going to prevent you from doing an excellent job. Remember: you are AWESOME! You were chosen for this internship for a reason, so do not ever doubt your ability to provide quality work. I believe in you, as do your colleagues at the internship site! 🙂

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This is a little unrelated to the post, but if you have some free time, please watch this video advertising for National Dance Day at the Kennedy Center! This is such a fun place to be. If you are in DC for the weekend, you can find more details about the event here.


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