It is important to recognize that just after you secure an internship, the hard work is far from over — you must fulfill the agreement of the internship successfully. You may be required to complete an internship for your major or hope to get a job out of the experience.
The stakes (a job — yikes!) might make you feel nervous, but remember that you can banish those first day of internship jitters by following a few tried-and-true first day of internship tips.
What to Prepare Before Your First Day
In the U.S., more than 300,000 interns complete an internship per year. Among them, 60.80% include paid internships and 39.20% include unpaid internships. However, you want a good experience whether you have a paid or unpaid internship.
You may think that your first day of an internship starts when you walk through the door on your first day, but it begins before that moment. Learn more from our first day of internship checklist.
Know What is Going on in the Company
Keep informed of any company news, good and bad. If you hear that the startup company you plan to intern for has had a successful Series A funding round, know as much about it as possible. On the other hand, if you hear that the company has made a round of layoffs, you may want to pack that information in your brain before you head for the office when starting internship duties.
You may also learn about staffing changes, such as your internship boss getting a promotion. You could even send a quick message congratulating them on the new position and prepare yourself for a change in your internship supervisor.
Time of Arrival and Who to Contact
Ensure you know the time of arrival and who to contact as soon as you arrive at your internship site. Workplaces can be incredibly large, confusing locations, so ensure you get exact instructions on how to arrive, the floor to report to and more. Imagine starting an internship at a zoo or a hundred-story building with thousands of offices. It could seem incredibly confusing to know where to go. The reporting location may be completely different than where you initially interviewed. Ensure that you know for sure.
In addition, consider driving the route or taking the route so you know exactly how to get to your internship site and how long it takes to get there, especially if you interviewed for the position quite a while ago.
What is the dress code? Business casual? Casual? And what exactly does it mean? Know the dress code before your first day — you do not want to feel like a fish out of water on the first day. Take a look at a few common types of professional attire, below:
- Casual: Casual dress refers to informal clothing such as T-shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes. However, consider dressing a little more formally on the first day with button-down shirts, linen or khaki pants, low heels, and loafers to be safe.
- Business casual: Smart casual may refer to casual attire with a more professional twist. For example, you may want to add a blazer to jeans or wear a pencil skirt or dress, sweaters, heels, flats, mules, boots, informal jewelry, etc.
- Business professional: Business professional dress is a more formal type of dress in more formal office environments, such as in industries like finance, government, or law. You will likely wear tailored suits, neat dresses, button-down shirts, heels, slacks, and other formal attire.
What to Bring
You likely will not need to bring much more than your normal personal belongings — purse or briefcase, keys, and phone. However, you may need a few other things, such as cash for lunch and your I.D. for certain purposes. (Some require a background check, though they may have already taken care of that before you begin your internship.)
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Before your very first day, go to bed at a decent time. Do not think of it as a good night to play Call of Duty till four a.m. Do not forget to set your alarm and give yourself extra time to get ready and navigate the roads, subway, or bike trail to your internship on the first day.
What to Do on the First Day
What do you do on the first day of your internship? There is no “one thing” that every intern does on their first day, because all internships are vastly different. Working at a lawyer’s office will yield a much different set of duties than working in an accountant’s office.
However, a few things are universal, such as arriving early, dressing to impress, knowing your role, meeting with your supervisor, and networking. Let’s go over a few must-know tips.
Get Mentally Ready
How do you normally get mentally ready to do things? Take a deep breath and just dive in? Do you meditate? Do you say some sort of prayer or perform another religious ritual? Whatever you do, get mentally ready for your internship. It is just as important as picking the right clothes on your first day.
If you know someone you will work with, consider getting a cup of coffee with that person to get the lay of the land and “what to expect” from them. However, remember that one person’s perspective may not match what you will experience. For example, one person may think “so and so” is really mean, while someone else may think they’re the greatest ever!
We mentioned getting a good night’s sleep and setting your alarm, but if you decide to lounge around and watch the news or change your outfit three times, you could still be late for your internship! Leave your house or apartment in plenty of time to get to your new internship site. Ideally, arrive around ten minutes early so you make a great impression on your first day. (Ensure you arrive early every day of your internship, not just the first day.)
Also, be conscious about the time you leave. If you are the last one to arrive and the first one to leave the office, that does not typically leave a great impression. Consider leaving later when you can and arriving early every day, even if you have plans to meet up with friends or have big dinner plans. You will make more of an impression if you work hard and leave later than the other interns.
Dress to Impress
We mentioned the type of clothing many offices wear — wear what you know you need to on your first day, but it may be unclear exactly what you should wear. Some offices are better at communicating this before your first day. If you are unsure of the type of clothing you should wear, err on the more formal side on the first day. You can dress down for day two once you understand the dress code.
Introduce yourself to everyone. So, how to introduce yourself on the first day of internship?
Stick your hand out for a handshake in every situation that makes sense. A “how to introduce yourself on the first day of internship example” looks like this: “Hi, my name’s [insert your name.] I’m the new intern in [insert role.]”
Simple as that!
Know Your Role
Most companies allow you to work as an intern in a specific company division. Learn about your specific role in your department. Understand what your exact role is and what you can expect to accomplish. Much of that might have been discussed at your internship, but you still may not understand the full scope of what the company might want you to do.
Consider taking notes, even though it might go against your nature. Reviewing the notes can help remind you of some menial things, like how to print on that beast of a printer, without having to ask someone a half dozen times.
Get to Know the Office
Let’s just say it — being the “new guy” is tough when you do not know where the bathrooms are, how to load the dishwasher correctly, etc. Here is some great internship advice: Take it upon yourself to get to know the office immediately because you will feel doubly awkward if you have to ask how to use the coffee maker after being there for six weeks.
Also get to know lunch protocols and other nearby perks, such as coffee shops, restaurants, and more. You want to know what is in your office and around it.
Meet with Your Supervisor
Ensure you know who your supervisor will be before starting. Try to meet with your supervisor and get a general sense of your job responsibilities from that individual. Hopefully, they have a clear outline of your job responsibilities and how you can go about working through your job duties.
However, for whatever reason, you may not have been able to meet with your supervisor on the first day. Maybe your supervisor had a sick kid on your first day or got called into many meetings. If that is the case, ensure you sit down with someone who can help you get oriented with your job responsibilities right off the bat.
When you meet with your supervisor, ask questions. There are dozens of questions to ask on the first day of internship related to your exact job duties, your daily activities, goals for the position, and more.
Did you know you can start networking on the first day of your internship? Sure, you can! It involves meeting as many people as possible and flashing a brilliant smile to as many people as possible. Talk to as many people as possible and try your hardest to create authentic relationships and connections. Start your experience by establishing yourself as a person who is willing to do whatever people ask of you. Being approachable is a great way to establish your network, and it is also a great way to meet a lot of great new friends.
Your mom always says to be yourself, which is so applicable on the first day of your internship. You do not want to behave a certain way just to fit in with everyone. Remember, part of an internship opportunity involves figuring out whether the field matches you.
If you do not think that marketing fits your personality and find that out through your internship, that is fantastic! It is better to find out during an internship that you are better suited to computer programming than slugging it out in a fifth year in marketing in your real career and then having to start all over again someday or loathing your career.
Keep Your Work Area Neat
Even if it is against your nature, you want to avoid being labeled “the sloppy intern” or “the messy new girl.” You have an opportunity to make a real impression at your internship, so take that to heart. Keep your area neat and clean, whether a table or desk.
Make a Good Impression
You might have already heard the expression, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” It is true! Try to do as much as you can on the first day to make an excellent first impression. Try to do your best to smile, shake hands with as many people as possible, and do everything in your power to seem as happy as possible to help as many of your new colleagues as possible.
Know Your Rights
Finally, know your rights. Internships can shape your ability to secure an entry-level position. However, interns often face internship issues, such as low or no pay, menial labor, and a lack of workplace protections. As an intern, you still have rights. If you feel that something feels amiss in your internship, visit your company’s human resources office.
Get a letter of recommendation or LinkedIn recommendation from your supervisor at your internship. Do not forget about this essential part of your internship experience. You want to ensure you get proof of excellent results before you leave on the last day of your internship! These can be important items to include in your personal branding.
Be Careful at Happy Hour
You do not want to tarnish your reputation at happy hour! Keep it under control when you are with the rest of the team, and also, do not post too many happy hour pictures on social media. Things you put on the internet last forever.
The First Day of Your Internship is Important!
It is hard to make a great first impression a second time, so as a first day intern, you have nothing to lose by remembering these tips before you start. Try to send an email a couple of weeks before your first day if you have not heard from your new internship regarding the particulars, such as your start time, and restate your excitement for the opportunity.
Make your internship experience count. Hopefully, it turns into a career opportunity, if not check out these tips to enter the workforce.