You recently landed a new internship. It’s going to be your first foray into the working world. You can’t wait to get started, but you’re also nervous. What if you embarrass yourself at work and alienate your new bosses or colleagues within the first week? Common courtesy and professionalism will stand you in good stead as a newbie intern. Make it your goal to create a positive first impression and everything else will fall into place. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. They’re just opportunities for you to learn and improve.

Here are some etiquette tips to help you make a stellar debut at your new internship:

Look the part

Appearances matter. Dress too casually and people will think you aren’t taking the internship seriously. If you look professional, on the other hand, you’ll be treated with respect. Make sure you have outfits that are in line with the company culture. Try to gauge the dress code while interviewing with the firm. This gives you an idea of what they consider acceptable attire.

  • Groom yourself properly – take a shower and use body spray. If you have a beard, shave or at least trim it. Never show up to work looking sloppy or half-awake.
  • Most employers send out assistance emails to facilitate your onboarding. These emails usually outline the dress code. If they don’t tell you, though, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask.
  • When in doubt, it’s better to be conservatively overdressed than casually underdressed.

Be punctual

Have you figured out the route to your new workplace? You don’t want to be late for your first day. It’s the fastest way to make a terrible impression. Wake up and leave your house early if you have to. It’s always a good idea to show up to work 15 minutes early. It shows that you’re eager to get started and gives you plenty of time to settle in.  

  • Attempt a trial commute run in advance so you know you can get to work on time, especially if the internship is in a city you’re not familiar with. 
  • If you aren’t used to waking up early, make it a habit before you start your internship. 
  • Learn to keep an eye on the clock. Deadlines are real! 

Stay approachable

Being friendly and approachable is key if you want to build strong workplace relationships. You’re going to need support to do well – not just in your current role, but also later on in your career. Make it a point to greet everyone, or at least acknowledge them. Try to learn names and faces. Be polite and respectful. 

  • Get to know everyone, from the big boss to the support staff. 
  • Introduce yourself to everyone. Don’t wait for them to make the first move. 
  • It’s good to be social but enforce healthy boundaries. You don’t want to come across as the new office gossip. 

Mind your P’s and Q’s

The manner in which you interact with others says a lot about you as a person. Your behaviour is going to come under the microscope a lot, at least initially. You’ll also be working with people who are from earlier generations and have a different set of values. Make sure you behave in a mature, respectful way with everyone.  

  • Watch what you say. Don’t use informal language or colloquialisms like “dude” and “gotcha”. 
  • Learn professional email etiquette. You’re going to be sending out a lot of them. 
  • Don’t stay glued to your phone. Keep it on silent mode so it doesn’t disturb other people. 

Learn the Ropes

Being an intern is all about the educational experience. Your academics have done their best to prepare you, but you still have a long way to go if you want to acquire the skill set you need to succeed as a working professional. Be proud of your education, talents, and strengths, but don’t let it stop you from growing. 

  • Don’t be afraid of asking questions. If you don’t know something, ask questions until you do. 
  • Ask for help. You’re not expected to do your job perfectly on the first try. Your colleagues or seniors will be happy to help if you ask politely. 
  • Get to know your work environment, how the different departments work together, and where you fit into the picture. 

Network with the best

The most successful people got where they are today thanks in no small part to the people who stood behind them. This includes bosses, colleagues, and mentors. There’s a lot of truth in the belief that you become the people you surround yourself with. Make sure you associate with the right kind of people. Not only is this good for your career, but it also factors into your personal development. 

  • Introduce yourself to your seniors who are experts in their field. 
  • Share your lunch breaks with people who can contribute to your growth. 
  • Find a mentor. This could be a colleague, a boss, or even someone from a different organization. 

Work Hard

As an intern, you need to give it everything you’ve got. Practically, most interns don’t have much to contribute to a project aside from their enthusiasm and presence – at least in the beginning.  Even so, do what you can. Don’t shy away from hard work. If you don’t have anything productive to do, volunteer to do something productive. 

  • Get to the office early and stay late if you have to. 
  • Volunteer for extra responsibilities that don’t necessarily come under your role. 
  • Keep honing your existing skills and pick up new ones.

It’s all in a day’s work 

There’s going to be a lot of work headed your way, and not all of it will be what you trained for. You may even consider some tasks – like filing and sorting – as beneath you. It’s all in a day’s work, though. You will get more responsibility in time, but not if aren’t willing to do what it takes to get there. Of course, not all internships are full of menial labour. And even if you have a support role currently, you will have opportunities to shine. 

  • Interns are a support role, so don’t be afraid of “menial labour”.  
  • Read emails, file, sort, talk to customers, and enter data – without complaining. 
  • Your boss and team members will gauge your trustworthiness and current skill level based on the simple tasks you’re given initially. If you do well, you’ll be trusted with more meaningful work soon.  

It’s normal for new interns to have a case of the jitters. Don’t let it stop you from focusing on the good, believing in yourself, and putting your best foot forward. Remember: your new workmates have been in your shoes. Most of them will cut you at least a bit of slack.

Do yourself a favour by not burying yourself under the weight of your own expectations. Learn, be friendly, and get on board with the new company culture. Keep growing and you’ll be an integral part of your new workplace in no time. 

It’s not a stretch to say internships have become indispensable. The competition for jobs has never been stiffer. When making hiring decisions, Capital Placement notes, employers will lean heavily towards students who have at least some internship experience under their belts. 

So, what does an intern do exactly?

Contrary to popular belief, completing an internship isn’t easy. If you think internships are about fetching coffee for everyone and generally riding on the team’s coattails, toss your expectations out the window. Modern intern roles – even the support kind – are as taxing and responsibility-ridden as full-time jobs!

It’s important you enter your internship with the right mindset. If you don’t know what to expect from your internship role, you’ll be better prepared and know what you need to do to succeed. Also, carrying out your intern responsibilities successfully will assist you in building up a potent skillset. 

What is an intern? 

An intern is a trainee who has signed on with an organization for a brief period. An intern’s goal is to gain work experience, occasionally some university credit, and always an overall feel for the industry they’re interning in. 

Internships may be paid, partially paid, or unpaid. The engagement period may range from a handful of weeks up to 2 years. With longer-term internships, you’ll almost always be compensated in some way. The compensation may include a monthly wage, accommodation, travel expenses, and a food allowance. 

Many companies require you to complete an internship with them before they even consider you for a full-time role.     

What does an intern do?

So what does an intern do exactly? That depends on the industry in question and the kind of internship you’ve signed up for. Research internships come with a different set of roles and responsibilities than, say, an internship geared toward easing you into a full-time role. 

An intern is primarily a support role – at least in the beginning. When you join up, your main job will be to assist, learn, and grow. After you’ve settled in, you’ll be expected to pull your own weight. 

Here’s a general overview of the work you can expect to do as an intern:     

1. Assist in day-to-day tasks

As an intern, don’t expect to spearhead a critical project anytime soon. But that’s by no means a bad thing. You’ll be groomed to spearhead projects in the future. Your boss will give you general errands to educate you on to the ins-and-outs of the organisation, to gauge your general skill set, and also to bring your skills up to par.

Here are some day-to-day intern roles and their responsibilities:   

  • Performing clerical duties: It’s almost a guarantee you’ll be taking memos, maintaining files, organising, sorting, creating PowerPoint presentations, drafting reports, and the like.
  • Managing social media and emails: You may be asked to handle the company’s social media accounts, write emails to customers, talk to clients on the phone, and similar duties. 
  • Event handling: Interns are often asked to oversee the scheduling of appointments, organising conference rooms, and taking care of the food and drink.   
  • Research: Interns fresh from a university education have a great deal of up-to-date knowledge. Your organisation may put this knowledge to good use by placing you in a research role. You may be asked to assist in streamlining an organisation’s work process in some way.

2. Learn and gain experience 

You’ll be expected to learn as much as you possibly can while you work, regardless of the kind of internship you’ve signed up for. What kind of learning will you be doing? It can be broken down into two main areas:  

  • Picking up hard skills: Hard skills are the technical skills you need to carry out your intern responsibilities, and eventually job duties, successfully. Examples include learning how to operate a computer program, drafting a company report, handling the company inventory, and maintaining the company database.    
  • Brushing up on your soft skills: Soft skills are as important as hard skills. Soft skills are all about your ability to relate to people and building mutually-beneficial relationships. Examples are talking, listening, conflict handling, time management, and development of empathy. You need soft skills to manage clients, not to mention get along with your bosses and colleagues.   

3. Job shadow

Job shadowing has become the norm recently. As the name suggests, the practice involves “shadowing” someone as they perform their daily duties, observing their activities, and learning what the role entails via indirect experience. This is an especially popular practice in hands-on fields like engineering and healthcare.  

How does this work exactly? When you join the organisation, you may be assigned a mentor. The first few weeks, you may be tasked with following them around. They’ll show you the ropes while they work. You may be asked to assist with light tasks here and there. You’ll be encouraged to ask questions. Eventually, you’ll be trained to take over the position and of intern roles.  

4. Take on an increasing amount of responsibility 

As time goes by, expect to shoulder an increasing amount of responsibility. Initially, they’ll gauge your current skill set and reliability with “grunt” work. As you prove yourself to your colleagues and bosses, you’ll be entrusted with more crucial tasks. The better you perform, the more the responsibilities you’ll be given. 

When you join as an intern, it’s always smart to give it your all. The work may feel uninspiring initially. That’s understandable. But if you can demonstrate enthusiasm and perform without complaining, you’ll slowly but surely work your way to the good stuff. 

Interns who really impress their bosses can expect glowing recommendations, if not an offer for full-time work.   

5. Network 

While networking isn’t an official requirement as such, it might as well be. Networking involves building relationships with your bosses, colleagues, and customers and clients. You’ll need the backing and support of people in places to build a successful career. Also, building good relationships with customers is always good for the organisation.

Here are some examples of the kind of networking interns do: 

  • Finding a mentor: Mentors act as anchor roles for interns. If you find a good one, you can follow in their footsteps and build a successful career just like your mentor. 
  • Forming a peer support group: Interning is hard. Finding a peer support group who is going through all the ups and downs with you will make it much more enjoyable for everyone involved. 
  • Getting in with bosses and coworkers: Interns who can build strong individual bonds with their coworkers and bosses become a part of the “family”. You’re much more likely to be offered a full-time role at the company down the road. 

6. Make a career call 

Finally, usually at the tail-end of your internship, you have to make a career-defining decision: continue in the field you interned in or try your hand at something else entirely. 

You got a taste of what working in your industry full-time would be like. Did you love the experience and can’t wait to dive back in again? Or do you feel you’d be happier doing something else?

Final Thoughts

Internships are usually short-term. They’re smaller investments in time and energy than full-time jobs. Consequently, they’re perfect opportunities to explore your options. You deserve work that’s fulfilling. If necessary, you can sign up for a different but related internship role elsewhere to see if you’re happier there. 

Your internship is going to shape the course of your career. It’ll assist you in acquiring the skills you need to perform up-to-par when you’re hired full-time. It’s essential you use your internship as the training opportunity it represents. 

You’re sure to have a bright future if you work hard, build positive relationships, and remain grateful for the internship opportunity. Capital Placement can assist you in securing a life-changing internship opportunity abroad, in line with your talents, skill-set, and career goals. Reach out to us now!   

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Having written for publications globally for over a decade, Prathamesh is a seasoned writer. He loves to read, game, and travel the world in his spare time.

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