Internship Perfection: Real or Myth?

Perfection – that illusive state to which so many people aspire. Too bad it doesn’t really exist. I struggle daily with this idea. Obviously, I’m not perfect – I’m human. I’ve made some bad mistakes, even one that almost got me fired from a student job. Unfortunately, because I tend towards perfectionism, I’m painfully aware of the mistakes I’ve made.

This feeling of personal failure is why being a perfection-focused intern can be disastrous. Is making a mistake at your internship the end of the world? Probably not. Can you learn valuable career and life lessons from the mistakes you make during your internship? You bet!

First things first: Are you a perfectionist or do you have perfectionistic tendencies? Do you believe the following:

  • Mistakes must not be made.
  • The highest standards must always be met.
  • Failure to reach your goals equals a shortcoming in you as a person.
  • If others see your flaws, they will judge you negatively.
  • Wants and desires are secondary to goal achievement.
  • The world is black and white, good and bad, right and wrong, with no gray areas.

If this describes you “perfectly” or if at least a couple of points ring true, here are some tips to help you, the potential perfectionist intern, deal with your vice:

  • Set healthy goals for the internship. Goal-setting is something that every intern should do, but the process is especially important for perfectionists. It might be tempting to set goals based on what others expect of you or to focus only on end results. Instead, try to setting goals in a healthy manner:
    • Focus on what you want to achieve
    • Set a goal that takes you one step beyond previous accomplishments.
    • Choose some process goals – goals that focus on improving the processes you must go through during a task or project to perform a skill successfully.
  • Put perfection in perspective. Ask yourself – What is the worst thing that could happen if I don’t do this task perfectly? The answer is probably not as bad as you fear.
  • Focus your failures. When you “fail” at something, don’t make it a global fail. Instead, see the mistake as specific to the given situation (ex. I didn’t earn an A on this exam. I’ll focus on my weak areas in order to do better on the final). Learn from the mistake. And if you are criticized, realize that it’s often not criticism but feedback. It’s constructive advice to help you learn, not a rejection.

I know that I’m not perfect and that I never will be. And I’ve made my fair share of mistakes.

You are not perfect and you never will be. Cut yourself some slack, make the best choices that you’re able to make, and learn from life’s slip-ups.

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One Response to “Internship Perfection: Real or Myth?”
  1. Janet Morrow says:

    That’s my girl!
    🙂 Mom

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