7 Useful Tips for Your Internship
So, you’ve landed your first internship. Congrats! Because this will probably be your first office job, we’d like to let you in on a few secrets for fitting in at your first gig. For instance, did you consider that learning how to work in an office and how to be professional are actually benefits of an internship? (And it may not be as easy as you think.) Here are 6 tips to help you succeed at your internship – at KIG or anywhere else for that matter.
1. Dress appropriately.
You may think that this goes without saying – but it certainly doesn’t. In fact, most companies have a written dress code, and it’s always a good idea to read the policy before your first day (it can usually be found in the employee handbook.) Don’t wait until you walk into the office for the first time to find out “business casual” isn’t what you thought it meant. At some places that may mean jeans and a polo shirt, and at others it’s a shirt and tie with no jacket. And there are even more options for women. You don’t need to break the bank getting a new wardrobe for work. A few staple pieces will take you a long way, and many items can be found second-hand. The important thing is to be clean, put together and confident. As the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
Are you working remotely? Chances are you’ll routinely be in virtual meetings on Zoom, Microsoft Teams or some other video conferencing platform (“Zoom fatigue is real!”) If that’s the case, the safe thing to do is to dress like you would if you were in the office. Plus, you’ll probably feel more confident and productive if you get dressed in appropriate attire each morning, although we can’t promise you’ll be more comfortable!
Physical appearance extends beyond clothing. Consider your hair style and color, piercings, tattoos: What statement do they make? Whether you like it or not, our appearances often influence how others perceive us – our friendliness, competence, etc. And we all want to be taken seriously, especially on that first day, right? Well, gentlemen, the shoulder-length hair that you avoided getting cut for two years doesn’t always go over well with middle-age balding guys. And that hot pink hair that you think perfectly captures your personality? Your coworkers may have a distinctly different impression.
2. Read the culture and act accordingly.
All companies have a culture, whether they know it or not. Is it stiff or laid back? Quiet or noisy? Dressy or informal? What about the lingo? While colorful language may be cool on campus, in the workplace, it can convey a message that you aren’t professional material. Culture, regardless of whether it is defined, is unique to every company. At KIG, our company culture is defined by a set of 31 fundamentals we call The Kuzneski Way, and they’re the backbone of how we do business.
3. An “A” isn't good enough.
Unlike how you were trained throughout school, in the work world, close enough is not good enough. You may be a straight-A student, but even if you score a 95% on a test, that means you failed 5% of the time. In most workplaces, that’s not going to cut it. At KIG, we “Practice A+ness” (one of the aforementioned fundamentals), which means we strive to have a healthy disdain for mediocrity. Obviously, no one’s perfect, but ask yourself, “is this my best work?”
4. Be aware of your surroundings.
Not that your parents will be looking over your shoulder, but an office setting is a good place to use your “inside voice.” With several people in a confined space, things can easily get noisy. Use headphones or ear buds while on computer meetings rather than blaring it through computer speakers. In some workplaces, you may be exposed to personal or confidential information, so discretion is a must.
But this doesn’t just pertain to noise around the office. If you use perfume or cologne, don’t take a bath in it. Remember that a little can go a long way. Some of your coworkers may be sensitive (or even allergic) to certain smells.
5. Understand deadlines.
When you are assigned a task, it's always a good idea to ask when your boss wants it to be finished. This becomes even more important when you're working on a longer-tern project, especially if said project has multiple steps. Your boss may expect parts of the project to be completed at different times. It comes down to Getting Clear on Expectations (one of our fundamentals, referenced above).
6. Learn and use office etiquette.
Even though most employers want you to feel at home in an office setting, a good rule of thumb is to act like you’re a guest in someone’s home. This means following rules (Where do you hang your coat? Can you bring lunch from home?) And – please – put the seat down after using the bathroom. (Don’t ask.)
And if you’re lucky enough to work in an office with a kitchen, there will probably be etiquette to follow there, too. Clean up after yourself. Don’t keep food in the refrigerator until it spoils. And whatever you do, don’t microwave fish – that’s a good way to become an office outcast! (Trust us!)
7. Virtual meetings require etiquette, too.
If you work from home, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings there, too. Take into consideration the angle of the camera, the background and what can be seen in view of the camera. As cute as pets are, they can easily become distracting for anyone else on a video call. Speaking of distractions, sipping coffee is one thing, but don’t eat food or chew gum on video, where everyone is staring at you.
Bonus: Email etiquette
- Email is not SnapChat. Don’t include anything in an email that you wouldn’t be comfortable discussing with coworkers. Emails can be easily forwarded, so do not include confidential information.
- Use a specific, meaningful subject line. (i.e. “Q4 reports for review,” as opposed to “Stuff to look at.”)
- Don’t overdo it with emoticons (smiley faces, winks, crying, etc.), especially when sending external emails. Remember, email is not meant to be used like social media.
- Read your email before you send it to avoid errors or misspellings that can make your communication look less than professional. If grammar isn’t your strong suit, ask a coworker to proofread emails before sending them out into the wild.
- Jokes, offensive content and other not-work-related emails are generally frowned upon. What may be humorous to one person may be off-putting to another.