Internships 101: You’re at work, not school

13 Feb

You’ve landed that internship, but you’ve never had an office job, or learned workplace etiquette. Not knowing how to act can trip you up. Here are some bad decisions that will get you nowhere, fast, and what to do instead.

  • I’m bored, so I’m going to chat with/e-mail/txt my friends, and surf Facebook. Don’t. That’s generally not cool. Keep personal online activities to a minimum, and if possible, only use the phone during breaks in an area that won’t disturb co-workers. When you do need to make a call while working, keep it short, and DON’T YELL! Oh, another thing; put the phone’s ringer on vibrate, or turn the volume down. No one wants to hear a Lady Gaga ringtone echoing off the walls.
  • Well, what am I supposed to do; I’m bored?! That’s what you need to ask your manager(s), but without the ’tude, dude. Everyone’s busy, and doesn’t have time to constantly monitor you. Nothing to do? Ask for something. Keep a few tasks in mind to suggest, or just do them. Try, “I’m done with what you gave me this morning, so if you don’t have anything right now, I can make updated printouts,” or “I finished what you gave me, so I straightened up the department while you were away.”
  • I’m not getting paid; this is just for course credit, so I can slack off, like in a class that I don’t like. Congratulations! You just blew your chances to get good references, and credit! Your boss will likely need to follow up with your school once the internship ends. If you haven’t fulfilled your job obligations as agreed, you deserve an F, just like if you hadn’t done your course work. Show up for work, both in mind and body.
  • My BFF is in town, so I’m going to go out drinking, and will show up late to work, with a hangover. Nah, I’ll just ditch work. They’ll understand. No, they won’t. They’ll fire you; you’ll deserve it. Again, show up for work.
  • I need to listen to music. Proceed with caution. Be able to know if someone’s speaking to you, or if the office phone is ringing. Using headphones in an open environment can block out noise if you need to concentrate, but it also sends a do not disturb message that can be misinterpreted. It’s not good if people are asking, “who does that intern think (s)he is, walking around all day with those headphones on?!” Ditch the iPod while not at your desk. Headphones are a better choice than using the computer’s speakers, though. If you like Techno, she likes Jazz, he likes Rock, and you’re all 3 feet apart, you’ve got a perfect setting for conflict. Ask anyone nearby to let you know if your tunes become disturbing, and do your best to make sure that doesn’t happen.
  • I’m going to wear my favorite t-shirt to work! You know, the one that shows off my curves &/or muscles, and has PIMPGEAR written across it in shiny silver letters. Really?! Are you kidding me?! Unless everyone else in the office dresses like that—especially your boss’s boss’s boss—don’t even think about it. Keep it clean, in all respects, and save the hottie wear for the clubs.
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