You're about to start your summer internship, and you have no idea what on Gosling’s green earth to expect. You wake up an hour early. You triple spray the last hair in place in your classic-yet-not-conservative French chignon, with the subtle-yet-not-Snooki backcombing on the crown. You breakfast like a total champion on half a kale smoothie and a double egg-white omelette, punctuating bites with sun salutations on the back deck to invoke ultimate calm and centeredness on the big day. You press “play” on the pre-prepared iTunes playlist you DJ’d for this morning—all Madonna and throwback Destiny’s Child: girl power jams, you know the deal. And then at the instruction of Beyoncé to throw your hands up at her if you’re an independent woman, you raise both arms for good measure, grab your keys and bag, and run out the door to meet the proverbial first day head-on, hands up, and shoulders back.
But waitwaitwait, hold on a second: what are you doing, what is going on here, why did you sign up for this again, and what, what, what should you be expecting?!
Calm down, working girl. While you practice brewing a decent cup of coffee—(believe us, the cliché will prove true at least once this summer)—let Her Campus guide you through what to expect on the first day of your summer internship.
What to bring
Okay, so this is super obvious. We hope you pretty much bring your wallet with you everywhere in this day and age except perhaps the Jell-O wrestling ring, which, frankly, isn't a place you should be, with wallet or without. On the first day, make sure to bring your drivers license, SSN card, credit card, and about $20 cash for lunch or other nominal fees like parking if you’re driving yourself to work in the morning.
Remember that scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Meryl Streep tells Anne Hathaway to fetch 10-or-15 skirts from Calvin Klein, and to make sure they have Pier 59 at 8 a.m. the next day, and to remind Jocelyn of those satchels that Marc is doing in the Pony, and oh, by the way, did Demarchelier confirm? Bring a notebook! It’ll be your back-up memory.
3. (More than one) pen
Bring your own pen. In fact, bring more than one lest the first one stop working and you have to resort to signing your name on some official document in an eyebrow pencil you just dug from the bottom of your purse. Not profesh.
4. A water bottle
Staying hydrated is a central component to mental agility and performance, two key elements to a successful first day on the job. Form the habit early and bring a water bottle to your internship on the first day.
5. Energy bar
Interning is a high-energy job. There are always going to be a million things to be completed five minutes ago, and packing an energy bar in your bag in the morning will save you in the emergency of a mid-afternoon (or mid-morning for that matter) energy slump. Don’t be the girl guzzling a vending machine energy drink at 10 a.m. Consider packing your own lunch if you don’t want to buy it, or if there isn’t food to purchase at your workplace.
What to wear
Regardless of where you’re interning, whether it be House and Home magazine, or the White House, itself, your first day outfit should be the picture of professionalism. It’s better to overdo your look than underdo it on the first day and arrive underdressed.
Hannah, a collegiette from NYU, went for an all black look on the first day of her internship at Seventeen magazine. “Although Seventeen has a pretty liberal dress code, all the interns (myself included) were dressed head to toe in black, complete with blazers. It’s definitely better to be safe than sorry on your first day.”
That being said, Daisy, an editorial intern at a Canadian fashion magazine, proves that you don’t need to sacrifice on style, either, as long as you don’t stray into the ostentatious. “The first day I erred on the side of formality with a matte nude-colored silky blouse and a very prim charcoal pencil skirt, black suede heels and a neon green skinny belt.”
Inquire as to the dress code before leaving work your first day, as opposed to just following the lead of everyone else in your workplace. In certain instances, interns may be expected to adhere to a different dress code than the rest of the office so as to be identifiable.
And don’t think you’ve got it easy just because your internship requires a uniform! A uniform exists to be worn exactly as it is. This is not the opportunity to get Catholic-school-girl-liberal with your plaid skirt and roll the waistband a few times because you’re “expressing yourself.”
Regardless of the hour you’ve been asked to arrive, the first day calls for a 15-minute arrival window. It’s a hundred times better to wait around for a few minutes your first day than risk keeping someone else waiting.
Hannah found that the time spent waiting beforehand can allow you to settle in a bit before kicking off what is sure to be a frenzied day. “I arrived a few minutes early and waited in the lobby while the security guard called my supervisor to let me in. A ton of interns were all starting on the same day, so we chatted in the lobby about which magazine we were assigned to and which editor we would be working with. It was a great way to meet the people I would be working alongside for the next few months!”
Find out ahead of time all the logistics of your arrival like which door to enter through and who you should expect to fetch you from the lobby, to combat the uncertainties of first day jitters.
Meeting your intern supervisor
Regardless of where you’re working, your first day will probably commence with a lengthy breakdown of not only what you are to expect during your summer internship, but what will be expected of you. Stay tuned into this, however long it carries on! The information you’ll receive here is vital to understanding your responsibilities as an intern.
Hannah’s first day at Seventeen began with a two-hour information session. “Once all the Seventeen interns had arrived, we met with our intern supervisor in a conference room to get a full run-down of what we needed to do our first day, what to expect on a day-to-day basis, and go through the Intern Bible—a huge packet that explained in detail how to complete a ton of tasks. At the end of our orientation, the editors all came in to introduce themselves and explain how they got to where they are today. It was really cool to hear about all the awesome internships and jobs they held.”
Other internships will have a considerably more laidback approach to introductions however, so be flexible as to what to expect right off the bat. Erinn from McGill University, who interned at Throat Threads Apparel, a sales and distribution center for leading names in men’s apparel, got to work right away on the first day of her internship, with, what else? A morning coffee run. “After touring the office, meeting the employees and getting settled, I was asked to do a coffee run to the Tim Horton’s next door—(I was allowed to buy something for myself too!)—and I was too excited about the rest of my day to even care about such a menial task.”
Instead of seeing the introduction process as a boring necessity, take this time to get excited about the summer you have ahead! Interning isn’t a mere job, it’s a privilege—and it all begins here.
Meeting your fellow interns
It’s natural to want to instantly befriend all the fellow newbies you meet, but keep in mind that while friendship will certainly make your job more fun, the other interns are still your co-workers first and foremost. It’s alright to bond with them—in fact, it’s a good thing!—but only as long as you’re not bonding with them on the first day over a shared talent of shotgunning beers in under 10 seconds or a shared hatred of that total bizzatch, Nikki, you both realize you know, from the equestrian circuit. Remember that while you’re at work, your conversation should remain, like everything else, work-appropriate.
It’s totally encouraged to get to know fellow interns on a more personal level as you go along! But the first day isn’t really the time for a gossip sesh.
In The Devil Wears Prada, Anne Hathaway doesn’t even have a chance to dig into her corn chowder before being called away to a run-through she’s already late for. It’s true that as an intern, lunch will likely never be the picture of long-and-leisurely, so create good eating habits the first day—and by good, I essentially mean speedy.
Even though at Erinn’s work, she was allotted 45 minutes for lunch, she realized on her first day that other things may take immediate precedence over a noon break. “Even though lunch is usually a 45 minute to hour-long break, I took 15 because I was in the middle of my task. This was followed by coffee run number two... ”
That being said, you are required to take breaks in every workplace, so don’t get into the habit on the first day of working through lunch, simply because you think it will impress your boss. Take your break! Just don’t be late in getting back to work.
Getting down to business
After lunch is when most of the real work begins. Not to put the pressure on, but while most people will likely be relatively patient with the first-dayers, you’re still going to be judged to some extent on your initial task performance.
Strive for efficiency, but no matter what you do, don’t sacrifice on the quality of your work. It’s your first day! Questions are not only acceptable, but probably welcomed. Asking thoughtful questions if you’re really stumped on a task will prove to your boss that you care about the work you’ve been hired to do, and that you want to do it right.
Hannah worked with fellow interns to help her out on the first day. “[After lunch], the other interns and I followed up on what we had been told during Intern Orientation. We all worked together to set up our new email accounts and voicemails. We also went to get our official ID cards so we could swipe in and out of the building freely. I did a bunch of tasks in the afternoon like researching an upcoming cover girl, compiling in-office memos, and brainstorming ideas for an editor, that ended up being fairly typical of what I would do for the rest of the semester.”
Daisy also found herself at a computer in the afternoon of her first day. “Upon returning to the office, I set to work fact-checking, which included a lot of contacting quoted authors and interviewees referenced in the articles to ensure that they were happy with how they were quoted. For the rest of the afternoon I searched and tried to source various pieces of jewelry for a feature, and find agency contacts for celebrity stylists.”
However, this part of the day may not be all work, and no play. On her first day at Seventeen, Hannah got to hang out a bit with The Boss! “The highlight of the afternoon was having coffee with the editor I had been assigned to, Kaitlin Menza. We talked a little bit about what she expected from me and vice versa, any questions or concerns I had for the semester, and anything in particular I wanted to see or do during my internship.”
Erinn worked so efficiently her first day, her manager actually suggested she go home early, after finishing a major job. “Boxes of samples came in for the Robert Graham collection so I spent [four hours] unpacking them and checking to make sure we received the correct order. From there, I had to take each and every shirt out of their individually wrapped bags, take the cardboard pieces out that keep the shirts together, hang them on hangers, and put them on display in the showroom.”
Getting down to work on the first day isn’t just a time to impress your superiors, it’s a time to familiarize yourself with the typical responsibilities of your internship. With the pressure and nerves of any first day, you may find yourself smiling, nodding, and doing your work somewhat mindlessly simply to complete it. Remember that you’re at your internship to contribute but also to learn. Keep a clear head and actually absorb the processes and skills you’re taught on the first day, whether it be a system login process or a coffee order.
“By the time I left the office on the first day I was more exhausted than I was for the whole rest of the week! I think I had so much nervous energy coursing through my body, but really, there wasn’t anything to be scared of. The work was very meticulous and detail-oriented, but manageable for sure, and while some tasks were repetitive, they taught me a lot and were balanced by many interesting, fun new challenges (especially in the week to come!),” says Daisy about her first day as an intern.
It’s normal to feel exhausted at the end of a first day, but don’t let the fatigue deflate you before home time! Before leaving, make sure you have the go-ahead by your immediate supervisor, and that you properly close down your work station and leave any work areas neat and tidy. Thank anyone who helped you out and make a point of noting how nice it was to meet them.
In short, be the polite, mannered, eloquent collegiette you always are. You’ve survived so many firsts before this one—first day of high school, first job, first Jell-O wrestling match (… none of you?) and with Her Campus behind you, you can definitely survive a little thing like the first day of your summer internship. On to Day Two!