Internships are an excellent way for young people to gain experience in a specific industry. The only problem is that the office is a minefield of unexpected and unwritten rules. Our recent intern, Rob, offers his guide for the etiquette required to survive the first few days of any office-based internship, as he tries to do so himself...
1. Dress Code
You should take the same pride in your appearance on your first day in the office as you did on that first non-uniform day at secondary school. On that day, you made sure your favourite outfit was laid out, your Air Max were clean and your hair was on point. The preparations for your internship need to be exactly the same. You need to look seriously sharp because you may be judged on what you wear. Your appearance gives your new employers an idea of how seriously you are going to take the job. As a rule of thumb: too smart is better than too shabby. After the first day, you will have some idea of how everyone else in the office dresses and can then dress accordingly.
2. Meeting and Greeting
In the first few days, you will meet the entire office. Remembering names is a great way to make a good impression. If you remember someone's name after only a brief encounter in the coffee room, they will be very impressed. Unfortunately, unless you're a genius, remembering hundreds of names is impossible. I always try to associate some personal feature with the person's name to make it easier to remember. If you forget someone's name, however, just play the newbie card and, politely, ask them again. Everyone is human and if you make a mistake just apologise and explain that you're a new intern - everyone can sympathise with being new.
Once you've started work for the day, lunch is the next hurdle that you need to overcome. The most important rule of the lunch room is: do not bring smelly food! Save the tuna pasta bake for dinner and the egg mayo sandwich for the weekend. Workers want to relax with their mates during lunch; making them endure your smelly sandwich is a sure-fire way to turn them against you. That being said, lunch is a great place to properly meet people for the first time. Don't sit in the corner on your own, sit with everyone and chat, get to know them and try to make some friends. Once you know a few people, lunch becomes a lot less scary.
4. Remember Your Place
Interns are new and temporary. Colleagues can feel affronted if the intern comes in and upends the office's social hierarchy immediately. If you've taken my advice up until now, you will be well-dressed and will have made some friends during your lunch break. However, this does not give you carte-blanche to fire banter around the office. As your mum knows from that time you made your younger brother cry by calling him names and claimed it was "just banter", jokes can go too far. One way to avoid alienating your colleagues early on is to stay away from office banter as much as possible. As the office newbie you want to be the Switzerland of office jokes: smile along with everyone else but remain very much neutral and in the background.
5. Embrace the Opportunity Fully
Internships are a great opportunity for you to show a company how competent you are, so don't be too shy around the office. Be confident, hard-working and memorable. If a company remembers that you have done good work for them before, they are more likely to re-hire you at a later date. There is a fine line, however, between confidence and arrogance: think more Captain America than Tony Stark.
As long as you keep these tips in mind during your first few days, then you should be set to take your office by storm and make the most out of your time there.
Do you have any more tips for interns, either from a student or employer perspective? Let us know via twitter: @thegrbteam