Employers love internships because it gives them a chance to try you out as an employee, no strings attached. If you suck? Oh well, you're gone at the end of the summer. But if you're awesome? They can offer you a job before you even graduate and won't have to worry about one more person to hire. Imagine packing up, heading back to school and knowing when you graduate that you have a JOB! A real one. With benefits — we're talking dental and vision coverage on the line here.
How do you nail the first day of your summer-long interview, um, I mean internship?
1. Show Up on TimeYou'd be surprised at how many people don't even show up on time. Yup, this is a big one. If you aren't sure about where the office is or what time you need to get there, reach out to the person who hired you well in advance of your first day to ask. Make sure you know if you need an access pass or security clearance. If you're driving to your internship or taking a new route on public transit, do a test run on a weekday at the same time you'll be commuting for your internship. "Rush hour" is not considered a valid excuse to be late.
2. Have a Good AttitudeIf you remember just one piece of advice on the first day of your internship, make this your golden rule: Show up and have a good attitude. A good attitude can get you a lot in life (free beer!), but even further at work (promotions!). A good attitude can make the difference in a job between running to get coffee for a meeting and being at that meeting with the CEO, so convey that you are happy to be there. Be the intern who accepts dull assignments with a smile, and soon you'll be the one doling out the assignments.
3. Be Professional"My pleasure" sounds a lot better than "no problem, man," right? Manners count in the workplace more than in the classroom. Phone etiquette is especially important, and as an intern answering the phones, you might be the first impression people have of the company. As an intern, you have the power to represent that company as professional and polished or "mad chill."
Titles and names matter A LOT, especially to people who have those high-up titles, so remember who is a senior manager and who is an assistant senior manager. Try to remember someone's name the first time you meet them, so you never have to ask again. Unsure on formality? Use "Mr." and "Ms." until someone tells you otherwise. Look at e-mail signatures for clues. NEVER assume a nickname. If SVP Richard wants to be called "Dick," he'll surely tell you.
4. Look the PartFormal workplaces such as law firms and financial institutions have to convey a certain professional look, so that people trust them. If you're interning in a place like this, congrats! You're now a walking billboard for your employer. Now go find some conservative suits and slacks, madam.
Working at a more creative or casual firm? Reach out to the person who hired you and ask what the dress code is, then err on the side of MORE formal your first day. Maybe jeans are OK for some departments (coder) but not others (sales). Look around and observe what most people seem to be wearing, then copy their style.
There are some pretty universal clothing items to avoid: tank tops, crop tops, shorts, flip flops. If you wouldn't wear it to a place of worship, it probably shouldn't be worn to a workplace.
5. Ask Questions...but not questions you could Google the answers to. Asking thoughtful questions shows that you have a true curiosity about the work. Asking clarifying questions on an assignments shows that you are paying attention to detail. Asking dumb questions shows that you are lazy. Before you ask your supervisor, ask Google.
Now go forth and NAIL your first day. Be the super intern!
And for the love of God, put your phone away.