Congratulations! You’ve made it through the dreaded internship application process and landed an awesome summer position. The hard part is over, so now all you have to worry about is how to impress your boss. No pressure, right?
It’s something that our moms always tell us: it’s important to make a good first impression. While this may seem obvious (we clearly don’t want to make a bad first impression), your first day can set the stage for a successful internship experience. Whether you’ll be fetching coffee or sitting in on meetings, here are seven ways to impress your boss and totally rock your first day.
1. Do some research beforehand
Start impressing your boss before you even step into the office! Even though you’ll learn a lot about the company and industry you’re working for throughout the summer, it’s important to have an idea of what’s going on prior to your first day.
“For starters, read about the company’s latest news and check out their social media profiles,” says Vicki Salemi, careers expert at Monster. “Think about what you’re reading and how that might impact the job you’ve been hired to do.”
With a grasp on what the company’s latest accomplishments or projects are, you can be up to speed from day one. That way you’ll have something to contribute if your boss or other employees are discussing the organization or industry.
“Read up about the history of the organization or what they’re currently working on,” says Jodi R. R. Smith, etiquette consultant and president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “That way you’re knowledgeable, and if there’s nothing else to talk about, you can make small talk about [the company].”
Most likely you’ll have some time between the end of school and the start of your internship, so put it to good use and get to know the company you’re interning for!
2. Be on time & well dressed
Two of the biggest factors of professionalism are punctuality and looking the part. They’re also two ways to impress—or, if you’re doing it wrong, displease—your boss.
“Your boss is not going to evaluate an entire internship on the first day, but it’s important to cover the basics,” Salemi says. “Be punctual, dress to impress and shake everyone’s hand. These are characteristics that your boss and colleagues will value.”
To make sure you’re on time and ready to work that first day, Salemi suggests practicing your commute the weekend before you start. This way you can learn the route so you don’t get lost the first day. But don’t forget to factor in weekday traffic to your travel time! The day of, give yourself 15 minutes extra time. It’s always better to sit in your car for a few extra minutes instead of rushing into the office 10 minutes late.
Also during that weekend before you start, pick out two to three appropriate outfits for the office. While some companies have a more casual dress code in the summer, it’s always better to err on the side of professional on the first day. “If it’s hot, you can wear linen or cotton, but make sure it’s in a dark color,” Smith says. “Navy is nice or black if it’s not too harsh. Make sure your skirt is knee-length and that your top has sleeves. If you’re walking, wear comfortable shoes and change into your professional shoes when you get to work.”
The worst feeling is walking into an office and realizing you’re way underdressed. It’s better to be a little overdressed and see what the other employees are wearing and adjust your outfit for the next day. If you want to ensure your outfit is appropriate, don’t be afraid to call or email your manager or point of contact before the first day and ask about the dress code.
3. Ask lots of questions
Internships are about learning—and what’s the best way to learn? Ask questions! Especially on your first day when you’re just learning the ropes, it’s important to make sure you understand all your responsibilities as an intern, so there’s no confusion later on.
“If not already planned, you should ask your boss to carve out at least 30 minutes to meet and review your job responsibilities,” Salemi says. “This is also a time to set expectations, explain what you’re hoping to learn and ask your boss what he or she is specifically looking for you to accomplish.”
By discussing goals and guidelines, you can monitor your own progress and never have to question what’s expected of you. You should also ask your boss how much he or she wants you to check in with them (every day, once a week, any particular time of day), how you two should communicate (come to their office, call them, email, text) and who’s next in line to contact if he or she isn’t there and you need help. Also ask about what time you should break for lunch, where your desk/work space is and policies about sick/vacation days. Being up front about these things will lead to less miscommunication down the road!
4. Use lunch to get to know people
You’re halfway through the day when your stomach starts to rumble. All you want to do is scarf down your sandwich and take a mental break for a half hour, but using your lunch break to talk to other employees will show your boss that you’re interested in the company as a whole, not just your own tasks.
For the first day, either pack your lunch or bring money just in case. You may not know what the lunch situation is like until you get there (is there a cafeteria or does everyone eat out?). Once you’ve figured out whom you’re eating with, start a conversation! “Keep the conversation light,” Smith says. “Ask about their backgrounds, what they like about the company, if there’s anything they wished someone had told them on their first day of work, etc.” And don’t forget to be prepared to talk a little about yourself too! They may want to know what other internships you’ve had, what classes you’re taking or what else you’ve planned for the rest of the summer.
Additionally, use lunch or other breaks to get to know your fellow interns, if you have any. Ask them about where they go to school, what their major is and what department they’re working with for the internship. Making an effort to get to know other people in the office will show your boss your social side as well as how well you get along with others. Everyone likes working with a personable intern!
5. Take notes
Sure you’re done with class for the summer, but that doesn’t mean you’re finished taking notes. Not only will it help you remember important details about your job (what should you do when you’ve finished a report and it needs to be reviewed?), but also it will show your boss that you’re interested and serious about your work and the company.
“You should always be asking questions, but if you’re not, you’re observing and taking notes,” Smith says. “Have a pen and paper with you always and constantly take notes. When you’re shadowing someone, in a meeting, whatever. Your boss will notice that you’re paying attention and processing information.”
Smith also discourages interns from using their cell phones, even if it’s to jot something down. “It could be easier to take notes on your cell phone, but don’t do it,” she adds. “No matter what, people will assume you’re texting. So stay away from the cell phone.” If you prefer taking notes digitally, ask your boss about using a laptop or tablet.
If you show your boss that you’re engaged from day one, he or she will see you’re dedicated to your position and more likely give you bigger responsibilities later on!
6. Keep it positive
The first day of any internship comes with nerves, surprises and maybe some boring tasks. However, it’s important to stay positive and enthusiastic, no matter what you’re doing.
“Be patient through the onboarding process,” Smith says. “You may have some more boring tasks that first day, but just remember that you’re doing something so that someone else doesn’t have to. They’re going to like you for that! So keep it positive.”
If you’re given a task and you finish it, don’t sit and wait to be assigned something else. Double-check your work and then ask if there’s anything else that needs to be done. “Make yourself useful,” Smith adds. “People notice.”
You should be confident in your abilities (you did land this awesome internship after all!), but also keep an open mind and show your willingness to learn. “Be enthusiastic,” Salemi says. “Participation is key on the first day to show that you’re dedicated and [want] to learn.”
Ultimately, you should put your best foot forward and be yourself. They clearly hired you for a reason, so keep it professional and positive and you’ll be sure to make a lasting first impression!
7. Check in
You got there on time, your outfit was professional but cute and your boss happily answered all your questions. Seems like your first day has been a success! But before you sprint out of there to call your mom and tell her how it went, make sure you check in.
“The biggest thing managers will say is that they want you to check in,” Smith says. “Check in at the end of the day to say you’re getting ready to leave. And always ask if there’s anything else they need right now. Don’t just disappear!”
More likely than not, your boss will want to get home at the end of the day as much as you do, but if they do ask you to complete a small task before you leave, do it well and don’t rush through it. Once you’re done, tell them to have a good night and you’ll see them in the morning!
Internships are a great way to get hands-on experience, learn about an industry and make professional relationships with bosses and mentors. While you might be nervous for your first day, keep these tips in mind and you’re bound to make an awesome first impression!