How to Ace the First Day of Your Internship

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The first day of your big internship is days away, and you’re understandably nervous. How can you make a good first impression?

Don’t worry, we’ve been there. And guess what? Your new bosses and co-workers have most likely been in your shoes, too. And they want you to succeed. If you succeed, it helps the company, so everyone wins.

To help make your first day easier, we’ve compiled a checklist to help you get mentally prepared for the upcoming challenge. So, take a deep breath, shake out the nerves, and get ready to crush your internship.

1. Show up prepared

Your internship starts on the day you’re hired, not the day you begin working. While you’re likely to have learned a little bit about the company through the interview process, it’s important to continue doing research before your first day. Monitor the company’s social media accounts, set up Google news alerts, and get a feel for all their products and services.

Additionally, it’s always a good idea to reach out to the internship coordinator to confirm any details about the company’s dress code, at what time you should start, and any logistical concerns you may have, such as where to park, or whom to ask for when you arrive.

2. Keep your eyes and ears open

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Every company, every employee, and every day has its own unique rhythm, often tailored for maximum efficiency. No matter what you do, you’re going to interrupt that rhythm, and that’s OK.

Try to remain aware of what’s going on around you – who is doing what, when are things are getting done, how are things getting done? – so you can eventually fit seamlessly into the operation. It may take a few days to get up to speed, but you’ll get there.

3. Pay attention

It’s the job of your intern coordinator and any mentors to help train you for your internship, but that doesn’t mean they’re always going to have a ton of time to chat. If someone needs an intern, it’s because they have more on their plate than they can get done in a single day.

Pay attention during training, and keep notes for future reference. If you have a follow-up question about a task, don’t hesitate to ask! You’ll save both yourself and your boss time in the future by doing so, and they’ll appreciate your attentiveness.

4. Introduce yourself

Don’t be shy! There’s not much worse than an intern who hides in the corner, doesn’t say much, and, worst of all, doesn’t contribute to the team.

Instead, introduce yourself to your summer co-workers when the opportunity arises. You’ll give off a professional vibe by confidently telling them your name, the department for whom you are an intern, and asking about their role in the company.

5. Be helpful, not prescriptive

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We know, you want to show off all of your knowledge and best qualities so your manager will trust you and eventually offer you a job. But it’s important to remember that you’ll be working with people who have years and even decades of experience in their field. The last thing they want is an intern trying to tell them how they should be doing things.

Be aware of the difference between telling someone “You should do…” and asking them, “What do you think about…”. Don’t be afraid to speak up and contribute ideas when there’s an opportunity, but do so in a respectful manner. And if you have a special skill – such as fluency in a foreign language, or familiarity with a particular software program – that could be useful, let your boss know.

6. Ask Thoughtful Questions

The days of “show up, shut up, and keep up” are long gone. While you don’t want to pester your boss and co-workers with a million trivial questions, they’ll be glad to share their insight into the internship program, the company, or the industry itself.

Here are some other questions you can ask on the first day to help you get a better understanding of what you signed up for:

  • What are your expectations of me during the course of this internship?
  • What is your preferred method of communication?
  • Who should I go to if I have a question about ______?
  • How can I be helpful during quiet moments?
  • I would love to learn how to do _____, would that be possible this summer?

Not only will these questions help you keep organized throughout your internship, it will let your boss know you’re serious about the role.

The first day of an internship can be intimidating, but remember, they hired you for a reason. As long as you’re dedicated to getting the most out of the experience, you’ll be able to meet their expectations while achieving your own goals for the summer.

And if you play your cards right, you may just receive an invite to come back once you graduate.