We all make career mistakes — especially early on.
Some of us make minor blunders — like showing up a few minutes late for an interview, or forgetting to send a thank-you note immediately after — but others, it turns out, make catastrophic errors.
The good news is, no matter how big or bad your mistakes are, you almost always learn something from them.
To find some of the worst gaffes interns have made, we looked through a Quora thread that posed the question: “What is the most catastrophic mistake made by an intern at a company?”
Here are some of our favourite responses:
1. User Michael Shiplet says at the last company he worked for, his team had been trying to secure a corporate partnership with UPS for about a year. “Everyone on the team had done backbreaking research, and the lead sales roles had spent several hundred hours crafting the higher levels of what this partnership would mean for both companies and drafting it into a beautiful partnership proposal (and I mean beautiful to read and to look at),” he explains. “And then I FedExed it to them.”
Shiplet says his company lost the partnership a few business days later.
2. An anonymous user writes: “About 18 years ago as a student, I was doing research at London’s Heathrow Airport, working in a room just below the control tower. We were listening to the control tower instructions and timing how long the pilots took to respond,” he says.
His colleague left for lunch one day after accidentally turning his radio onto “broadcast” mode by accident. “[This] meant that no one was able to send or receive messages on the frequency that was being used to give take off permission,” he explains. “I returned back to my desk and started to eat my lunch to discover that all departures from the airport had been brought to a standstill by someone who sounded like they were eating their lunch.
“The realisation that it was the sound of MY lunch being eaten hit me about 10 minutes later. I rushed over and flicked the switch to off, and one of the busiest international airports in the world started to work again.”
He says he was never caught.
3. Another anonymous source writes about how he was working in a downtown high-rise building as a manager for a tech-support outsourcer when, one night, some of his employees “had gotten hold of a couple of keychain laser pointers back when they first came out.”
“So they were shining the laser pointers out the windows of the 24th floor of this building, where our offices were located. And it just so happened that they shone them into the windows of the hotel across the street. And it just so happened that on that particular night, the President of the United States was staying on that floor of the hotel in the room that faced our building.”
“That’s the only time I’ve ever met the Secret Service, and they don’t have a sense of humour,” the Quora user writes.
4. One anonymous user writes: “I once brushed against the wrong power switch and disconnected every telephone call being intercepted by a state police department at the time.”
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