The 6 "Do"s and "Don't"s of Your First Internship
There were a myriad of things to be apprehensive about on the first day of my winter internship. It was in New York City, and for a small-town girl, the hustle and bustle, the labyrinthine subway system, and the sheer sophistication of each passerby was intimidating. On top of that, I had no idea what exactly “business casual” meant, or how to purport myself in the office environment.
To save you the trouble, I list here a few things I learned during my experience:
- DO dress one notch above the dress code on the first day, if you’re truly unsure. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed, and it gives your supervisor the impression that you are taking this opportunity seriously. For girls at “business casual” companies, this could mean black slacks, khakis, or a pencil skirt. If you wear a pencil skirt, make sure it hits your knees and is coupled with opaque tights. The shoes can be either ballet flats, or short heels. If you wear a necklace, don’t wear earrings, and vice versa. Makeup, if you so choose to apply it, should be on the more natural side.
- DO try to arrange lunches with your site supervisor on the first few days. It’s easy to assume that they’re too busy and wouldn’t want to spend time to dine with an intern, but you never know until you try. The information they may impart on you would be invaluable–an honest, insightful glimpse of their field. If you can’t get your own supervisor to do so, introduce yourself to others around you during your down-time. You might be among your school’s alumni! And, from experience, I can say that they will always be willing to connect with you.
- DO remember everyone’s name. I had three full pages in my notepad dedicated to everyone’s contact information, so I could e-mail them and say “thank you” after my internship was done. It keeps you in their minds, and it’s simply courteous.
- DO NOT ask anyone, no matter how firmly you have established a relationship with them, for a job. They may not even be able to give you one, besides. This may seem like an obvious point, but it’s been known to happen and fail, and, at the very least, create awkward situations. Simply ask for their advice, and show interest and enthusiasm in learning about everything you can while you’re there.
- DO reach out to the directors of other departments during your down-time. Ask your supervisor for other high-ups’ e-mails, and message them introducing yourself and your interests. You might be able to schedule a meal with them. In such a case, DO conduct informational interviews about their careers, lifestyles, and the steps they recommend you take to get to where they are.
- DO, after number 5 is done, send them “thank you” notes, and continue to keep in touch with them.
Good luck and enjoy your opportunities!
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