Over the years, we have had a combined total of nine internships. Some were during the summer, some were during the school year. Some were remote and some were in offices. Needless to say, we’ve been around the block a couple times when it comes to internships. Whether it’s your first internship or your last, there is some general etiquette to be aware of before you start. The etiquette is even different depending on the type and the timing of the internship. Because it’s fall aka the beginning of the school year, we’re going to focus on those internships you have while you’re also taking classes. We’ll break it down into two parts: General Etiquette (aka what applies no matter the time of year) and School-Year Specific Etiquette.
If you need to be there by 9, plan to get there by 8:45 at the latest on your first day. Don’t go up to the office until about 5 minutes before 9, but stake out a coffee shop and relax a bit. It will make you seem punctual (a key skill) and it will be the least stressful way to start a new position.
You are in a new position and you’re there to learn. Don’t be afraid of asking a stupid question because you don’t want to make mistakes. Do make sure you try and figure out the answer first. You need to do your due diligence to try and answer the question before you question your boss. Just…don’t be afraid, alright?
Carrie once had an intern in her office that dressed like she was going to the club. It’s crappy that as women, how we dress matters in an office but it does. Sometimes it can even affect how much respect people give you. You can always adjust as you learn more about the office culture, but first impressions are everything so air on the side of caution. It’s hard to go wrong with dress pants, a nice top and flats. Toss a pair of heels in there, just in case your office is really dressy and throw a blazer on over your top.
Respond and follow up to emails
The key with this one is just be as responsive as you can. People you work with may not respond to your emails because you’re the intern and in their eyes your work isn’t as important. Don’t let this discourage you. Kindly follow up when you haven’t heard from someone in a few days. Try and respond to emails that come to you within 24 hours so that someone isn’t waiting on you. Sort of a practice what you preach method. If you’re not in the office every day, make sure that is clear to your team and periphery teams you might work with. And if you’ll be gone for longer than two days, put an out of office reply on your email.
Network like it is a part of your job
Make it your goal that by the end of your internship you’ll have had one-on-ones with everyone on your team and a few people who work on other teams within your organization. When people work 8 hour days (aka real adults), they need breaks so ask people for coffee and see what your can learn from them. If you need more tips, we’ve got you covered.
School-Year Specific Etiquette
Be honest about your course load
Even though your supervisor knows you’re in school, they might not really understand what that means. They might not be that far out of school themselves, but it is amazing how quickly you can forget what it is like to have homework and exams. Be upfront about how much time you can spend in the office- especially if you can’t do 8 hours in one day. If you have the freedom to make your own schedule (and you should since you know…school…), go in with a schedule that would work best for you. For example, break up 20 hours into 4-5 hours a day. It’s more manageable and you can still say that you’re in the office every day.
Set realistic expectations with your supervisor
As a follow up to the one above, make sure your supervisor is realistic with your projects. More often than not, we have had internships where we don’t have enough work…but if you’re one of the lucky ones and constantly find yourself busy, this is important. If you have a big exam week coming up or you are finding that work is seeping into your study time, say something. Your first priority should be school and your supervisor should understand that.
Try and connect your internship experiences with your coursework
Hopefully you’ve found an internship in the field you hope you one day have a job in so this should be simple. At least in theory. If you are doing research for work about a topic that you are taking a class about, see if you could double dip and use your research for a paper in class. This is truly the ideal situation because you could basically get homework done while you’re at work. It doesn’t always work out, but always keep an eye out for opportunities to do so.