This is a reprint from Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job. Kill it in Your Career. Rock Social Media. By Aliza Licht. I’m publishing it because many students are about to begin their summer internships, and I want them to have the most valuable experience possible.
When you enter a real work environment for the first time, especially as a college student starting an internship, remember why you want to be there: First and foremost, to learn real marketable skills that can enhance your resumé and to secure a strong referral from your supervisor. You do not go about getting these things by thinking, “Oh, I’m just an intern, so this experience doesn’t really matter.” Too many people make the mistake of thinking that since they don’t “really” work somewhere, how they present themselves isn’t of consequence. On the contrary, how you present yourself matters more because you’re trying to prove yourself and break in.
By the last day of your internship, your boss should be begging for you to stay. She should be saying things like, “What are we going to do without you?” That is a lasting impression. That is a reference nailed. Here’s how you do that:
- Dress the part: The more you can dress to fit the office culture, the easier it will be for people there to visualize you as part of the team. Now, here’s where you start panicking that you don’t have the money to shop for new clothes. Listen: Shop thrift stores or borrow from friends. When my sister and I get bored of our closets we swap wardrobes. It feels as gratifying as shopping! If you can afford to, invest in accessories. A quality shoe or handbag is much harder to fake. When in doubt about your wardrobe, wear black. Black doesn’t make mistakes. Be mindful of the cuts: The office is no place for strapless or cleavage. Miniskirts can also be a no-no. You’re not stupid so you don’t need me to tell you this but… don’t dress like you’re going out clubbing. Guys, for you the advice is different. For some reason, men underestimate the importance of a clean, pressed shirt. Don’t dress like you’ve just rolled out of bed. A sleepy outfit can give the impression of a sleepy mind.
- Investigate your employers beforehand: Google the names of anyone you know who works there. Study them and memorize who they are. There’s no excuse for not knowing who the CEO of a company is—when you end up in the elevator alone with him, you don’t want to mistakenly ignore him. If you can, it’s also smart to examine your future coworkers’ body language in photographs; are they really smiley and having fun or are they serious and stiff? If they’ve been quoted anywhere, what did they say? What do people say about them? Think like an investigative reporter and come up with a few takeaways as to what the tone of the office might be like.
INSIDER TIP: Know the players or you won’t know how to play the game.
- Be on time: No, better yet, get there before everyone else does. If your boss shows up and you’re already in the office, that’s bonus points and if you ask your supervisor the night before what project you could start in the morning, you’ll achieve rock star status in no time. Going above and beyond will pay off, I promise you. And if you have the nerve to be late, guess what you’re giving off? The “I don’t really value this opportunity” sign. You may as well pick out your tombstone now, because, honey, you are dead and buried.
- Remember, you’re not one of them: You don’t actually have a job, you have an internship. Your boss doesn’t want to hear unsolicited information about your boyfriend problems or what you ate for dinner last night, and she certainly doesn’t want to hear that you’re so tired because you were out partying until three a.m. On the flip side, your boss doesn’t want to be interrogated by you either. Don’t ask personal questions. You’ll know if and when the relationship evolves because she’ll start voluntarily disclosing personal tidbits about her life. Even then, you’re better off as the listener than the blabbermouth. It should not be you sending the first “we’re friends now” signal.
INSIDER TIP: Filter what you say to your boss.
- Learn to self-start: Not every manager is good at delegating and giving direction, so taking the initiative to make your own work goes a long way. Nothing is worse than seeing an intern sitting around because he has nothing to do. If you can’t figure out what you should or could be doing, then by all means, ask.
- Yes, yes, yes and also yes: When it comes to work-related tasks, the only word you know is “yes.” And not yes with an attitude, a sigh or an eye roll. It’s “Yes!!” with bells on. Managers should not be made to feel like they’re putting you out by asking you to do something, and saying “yes” when your body language is saying “don’t bother me!” is not good interning strategy. Of course, if you’re ever asked to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable, by all means do not do it. No job is worth sacrificing your values or morals. You’ll know where to draw the line.
- Social media: It’s tempting to post on social media as the day goes on, but focusing on your job is a better idea. Remember that people can see what you post! You definitely don’t want to give off the impression that you’re not taking work seriously. You also don’t want to look like your mind is elsewhere, or worse, get caught talking about your colleagues (even anonymously) behind their backs. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it just in case: Don’t post about your internship! What happens in the office stays in the office.
INSIDER TIP: Read the company’s social media policy before posting anything—even after hours.
From the book LEAVE YOUR MARK: Land Your Dream Job. Kill it in Your Career. Rock Social Media by Aliza Licht. Copyright (C) 2015 by Aliza Licht. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing, New York, NY. All rights reserved.