Good preparation and understanding a few workplace basics will help you make a good impression from day one of your internship or placement.
Before you start work
- Make sure you know precisely where you will be based and where you need to report to on your first day. This is especially important if your employer has multiple offices or is based in a vast complex. Find a map, get directions, and print out a hard copy in case your mobile or satnav fails on the day.
- Plan your journey. Incorporate contingency time for bad traffic, public transport delays or getting lost. If you’re driving, find out where you can park and if you’ll need a mountain of coins to pay for this.
- Arrange accommodation if necessary. Your employer may be able to make suggestions. If you’re staying in a university area outside term-time, you might be able to rent a room in halls or find a short-term let while a student is away.
- Check your finances. Even if you are being paid, this is unlikely to be until the end of your first week or month, so make sure you can cover all your expenses till then.
- Revise any specialist knowledge or skills you will need to do the job.
- Ensure you have enough appropriate outfits. Don’t forget odds and ends such as suitable socks, tights, ties or bags.
- Check whether there is anything you need to bring – for example, should you supply your own lab coat?
In the workplace
- Find out quickly how the office phone system works and whether there are any rules you need to follow, eg answering with a particular greeting.
- Likewise, find out what internal and external communication methods the company uses (eg WhatsApp, email, FaceTime) and any protocols. For example, are you expected to use a particular sign off or signature? Remember to remain fairly formal, even if the communication method appears informal. For emails, don’t send a message without subject lines or put kisses after your name!
- Check for any other communications policies, especially regarding contact with people outside the company.
- Watch your language. It’s safest not to swear or to use words that could cause offence.
- Ensure you know who to contact if you need to take a day off sick or are delayed getting in to work.
- Double-check that you understand the hours you are expected to work, for example if you need to take your lunch break at a particular time.
- If invited to attend meetings with colleagues or clients, clarify beforehand whether your input would be welcome or if you are expected to sit and observe.
- When briefed on a task, take notes of what you need to do and ask questions to clarify this if necessary.
- Your manager and colleagues are likely to be willing to help you, but attempt to judge when is and isn’t a good time to bother them.
- Make sure your colleagues know where you are, for example if you are going into a meeting or out for lunch; it is useful in case there is a fire alarm. Saying goodbye at the end of the day lets people know you are leaving, as well as being good manners.