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I am into my second month of my internship, however, over the past few weeks, I have been making numerous mistakes (overlooking to print certain materials and as a result having to deliver it immediately to the training venue, misunderstanding instructions resulting in my co-worker having to clear up the mess, discarding documents that were actually not supposed to go into the bin!).

All of these happen due to my carelessness and my failure to clarify, and while they reflect extremely badly on me, they have also definitely reduced my supervisor's, colleagues' confidence of my abilities, as well as resulted in unwanted consequences for others.

While I try to prevent these mistakes by putting in informal checks (e.g. checklists, getting my co-worker to help to double-check), it seems that these incidents have been happening so frequently, that day after day I go to work with a heavy heart, fearing that something would happen again. I find it difficult to get over these incidents, and I spend days brooding over these mistakes. I try to be as meticulous as I can, but I am really frustrated as these incidents occur again and again. While I take responsibility for my mistakes and fess up to my boss first before she even finds out, at this point of time, I'm afraid all the apologies and 'I will definitely be more careful and make sure that I clarify first' might have appeared to be 'talk only' to my colleagues.

As much as difficult as it is, how can I regain my colleagues' trust and do well in my internship?

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First of all, you are probably being too hard on yourself. I think most reasonable people will allow somebody time to bed in and find their feet in a new role - particularly when that person is new to the workplace and the industry that company moves in. (It's a different ball game if you have 10 years under your belt and are coming in to a senior role)

In terms of the mistakes you are making, the first thing you can do is hold your hand up and acknowledge when you've slipped up. People will respect you for it much more than if they find out you've done something wrong and said nothing/tried to cover up/tried to pin it on a co-worker.

Next, do everything you can to help make things right. Be tenacious about seeing it right through to the end. Work a few extra hours if you have to. This shows commitment a willingness to take responsibility for fixing the issue.

Both of these things will make people more accommodating and less quick to anger because you aren't leaving it to other people to resolve the problem.

Finally, you are doing the right thing in trying to put your own checks in place. Take the opportunity to show people (particularly people in a similar roles) how you are trying to manage things better and ask how they keep track of everything. (Maybe for every job list each deliverable and check them all off).

I think you are probably too eager to do well in the internship and letting your enthusiasm cause you to be too hurried in doing things. Slow down - my grandfather used to say "measure twice, cut once". Apply this to your day to day role.

  • I think this post is probably closest on target. Something I'd also add in is while it's good to apologies if you know you make mistake, don't give into the temptation to "pile on" in the apology with excessive reassurances that you'll "try harder." Instead, as the poster says, keep devoting extra effort to putting extra checks in place and extra hours in. You can turn it around if the mistakes start disappearing of your own initiative. (Not pulling this out of my arse either, I once hired someone who was able to turn it around after a disastrous first two months.) – Joe Bradley Jun 14 '15 at 2:01
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Short answer: Take accountability and try to improve.

Long answer: Taking accountability is the first major step when you make a mistake. Good co-workers will appreciate that you are honest with yourself and your mistakes. If you show you are willing to learn, people will be a lot more willing to keep you around.

I would also examine your processes. Why do the same mistakes keep having over and over again? Perhaps you need to add an extra step in whatever you do, a "testing phase" or "quality assurance phase". I think it would be worthwhile if you could slow down and improve quality.

Lastly, don't be too hard on yourself. Realize that you are an intern, and everyone makes mistakes. Try to stay positive and work hard to improve yourself. Every employee goes through rough times. The true measure of strength is working through times of adversity.

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I think the most important thing to do is to schedule a meeting with your manager. Don't let unspoken words jeopardize your relationship with colleagues and management. Don't just apologize as this comes off as purely an error on your behalf and may lead to termination. Sometimes perception can be a killer. Make the meeting a discussion about the position and why you are having these issues.

Being a manager myself and reading between the lines of what you wrote it seems that there are gaps in your training (did they train you at all?), as well as flaws in their process that allow for many errors to be made. Bring this up with your manager and have a discussion. Be confident and be real about the things that have been occurring. Your manager may end up having you shadow a more senior member of the team and help fill the knowledge gaps.

Another possibility is that this job is not a good fit for you. You should not feel bad if this is the case even if this was the job you thought you would love. Being afraid to go to work is only going to burn you out and leave you hating your career path. Sometimes its best to make a move internally in a company (assuming all other things are good), or realize you can't be the best you can be in the current company and move on.

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