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10 Things To Do Before You Start Your Internship

Posted May 16 2013 - 12:00am

Your first day at a new internship is essentially your first day at kindergarten: part two. While you're probably not pumping yourself up with a brand new Barbie lunchbox and hot-pink jelly sandals this time, you still have some slightly more professional prep work to do before your first day. So before you strap on your pair of pumps for the first day at the office, here are the top 10 things every intern needs to do ahead of time.  

1. Familiarize yourself with the company
Consider this your homework assignment for your first day. Understanding the company's mission and office hierarchy are crucial aspects of any job, and they will make your life SO much easier (promise!). Heather Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended, a content marketing consultancy for career-focused organizations, recommends, "Be familiar with the company before you begin your internship. It is important to confirm to whom and where you are reporting." Plus, showing that you understand the fundamental values of the company before your internship even starts will show special dedication to becoming a cohesive part of the office from the get-go.

If you haven't already done so, now's a great time to peruse the company's website. Pay special attention to the "about us" section and the company's mission statement (if you can find it), as these reflect the company at its core. Also, you'll definitely want to stay current on the latest happenings within the company. An easy way to do this is to sign up for Google Alerts using the name of the company you are interning for and any corporate heads as your keywords. That way, anytime a story breaks with any of the keywords you chose, Google will automatically email you the articles! Can it get any easier than that?

2. Practice your commute
Arriving late, in general, is bad. Arriving late on the first day is awful and sets a sloppy tone for the rest of your internship. Huhman says, "Take a test drive to the office. Knowing where you are going will only help you be on time—or even early—when coming in on your first day." Especially if you're planning on using public transportation to commute, make sure you double check the bus/train/subway schedules and practice walking from your stop to your office. Although starting your day with a power run can be quite invigorating...it loses a little something in a dress and heels. However, on the off chance that you arrive late, you can learn how to avert this crisis here.

multi-tasking girl putting on lipstick while driving and talking on her cell phone

3. Become proficient in Microsoft Office Suite
Sure, we all learned how to type Word documents in second grade computer class, and (call it a hunch) you probably wouldn't be in college if you weren't computer literate. But it's never a bad idea to refresh your memory on how major computer programs run. While you're probably a pro at making every emoticon possible on Facebook chat, (sadly) that won't come in handy at the office. Especially if your internship involves a lot of typing or mathematical formulas, becoming familiar with Word and Excel shortcuts can save you a lot of time and frustration. A not-so-tech-savvy collegiette™ remembers, “At my first internship I had to ask a million questions everyday on how to format things in Excel...It was kind of embarrassing." For even the most technologically challenged collegiettes  out there, you can master the art of the spreadsheet on this website. After you've mastered Excel, check out the computer programs that every collegiette should learn here. Also, if you're usually a Mac user, you should take time before you start your internship to familiarize yourself with how a PC works (and vice versa) by playing around on a friend’s laptop.

4. Know the office dress code
When you work at Target, it's the khaki pants and red shirt ensemble. At McDonalds, you have to rock the golden arches hat and polo. Case in point: every job has its own unique dress code. Huhman says, "It is important to have appropriate outfits available for your new internship. Make sure you understand the dress code and if need be, go shopping beforehand." Knowing what is appropriate to wear to work is crucial to your success at your internship. If you start your first day in the fashion industry in a Hilary Clinton-esque power suit, you probably won't be known for your cutting edge style around the office. Not sure what the dress code is? Don’t be afraid to e-mail your supervisor ahead of time and ask!

dress code clothes for the office models corporate suiting

5. Read the newspaper
While I'm not suggesting that you read the entire newspaper cover to cover (seriously, you can skip through the ads and cartoons), it's important to be current on world events. If your co-workers are discussing the U.S. economic crisis and you interject with "OMG Obama's the president now?"—you won't be doing yourself any favors. No matter the industry you are interning in, knowing the names of key players in our government and staying up-to-date on major world events is imperative. If you don't have time to physically sit down and read the newspaper, try setting your homepage to a news website aimed at your line of work. Business interns should consider reading Businessweek or The Wall Street Journal, advertising interns can focus on AdAge, and government interns should pay attention to CNN, etc. Make checking the latest industry news a priority before you leave for work every morning. That way, you'll always sound professional and informed when chatting around the water cooler with your coworkers.

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