So you aced the interview(s) and got the internship. Congrats! Now, how do you make the most of your first position? I’ve got some great first internship tips that I caught on to rather quickly that definitely helped me get my current job.
It’s all about professionalism. I don’t claim to be a ‘professional’ by any means, but through my short experience in the adult world and some networking meetings with good feedback, I have quickly learnt good practices to make the most of your first internship and be respected as a worker.
If you don’t know the daily attire of your office before you arrive, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. Use your interviews or your first day (if you only had phone interviews) to test the waters and see how people dress. (I also did some googling to see what I could find since I hate not being 100% prepared!)
Keep on par with your office’s attire. Don’t wear jeans if everyone else wears skirts and trousers. Don’t wear sneakers if everyone else wears loafers, flats, and heels. You want your boss to know you care and to see you as a young, dedicated professional.
Acting professionally: some do’s and don’t’s
- Nap at your desk: I never actually thought this was a thing, but it is. Don’t do it. If you need some shut-eye, go somewhere else or get a coffee.
- Watch TV at your desk: Again, I didn’t think this happened, but it does. You have several hours after work to catch up on your shows. And all weekend. Just don’t do it.
- Spend an inordinate amount of time on social media: every once in a while as a break is fine, but your social life can wait until lunchtime or a coffee break. Some offices might even block social media! Try reading the news instead if you really have nothing to do.
- Spend the day socialising with coworkers instead of doing your work: getting to know your co-workers is great and it’s important to have a friendly rapport with them. But again, don’t let it interfere too much with your work to the point that you’re chatting more with them than actually doing your work.
- Show up early and stay late: It doesn’t look great if you’re showing up way after your boss gets into the office. You want them to know that you are enthusiastic and dedicated to your work.
- Have a pen and notebook with you: You never know when you’ll need one.
- Answer emails and calls in a timely manner: I didn’t have a phone at my desk so this didn’t really apply to me, but answering emails in a timely manner is important. If your boss asks you to fix something time sensitive, make sure he/she knows you’re doing it. Don’t wait until the next day to reply.
- Ask questions, but show independence: Asking questions is always good. I had the hardest time learning to ask questions in school, and now I try to ask a lot of them, especially in new situations. However, you’re also [almost] in the real world. Show your supervisor that you have problem-solving skills: try to figure out your problems and then ask questions if you still have trouble. Exception: if you’re brand new, obviously use this time to ask questions! You won’t be expected to know anything and it’s better to ask now than to make a major mistake later!
- Don’t be afraid to do the grunt work and don’t complain about the work you’re given. You’re in an internship so not all of your tasks will be glamorous. I sometimes had a hard time remembering this one myself ;)
- Avoid office gossip
- Double and triple check everything
- Finish assignments on time (and if you can’t, explain why)
- Take your job seriously: even if it’s unpaid, you’re still contributing something to your company or organisation. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t have been hired in the first place! Who knows, the more seriously you take your job now, the more opportunities will open up later.
- Be proactive: ask if you can help out on a project; express interest in something you haven’t had the opportunity to work on yet; ask for assignments; be up for a challenge
- Learn to take feedback with grace: I’m not very good with criticism but when my supervisor went through my first assignment with me and asked me about every detail and about every choice I made, telling me what was right and what was wrong, I learnt to take feedback, both positive and constructive.
Finally, say thank you and yes please (something I learnt from Amy Poehler) ;)