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Internship Etiquette: Tips to Help You Master “Professionalism” in the Workplace

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

Show initiative: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” When you anticipate needs and take appropriate action without being asked, it demonstrates your understanding of a “bigger picture” (your willingness to contribute to the organization, to do any task necessary and understand that you are contributing to something bigger than you). Be prepared to roll up your sleeves: there may be some grunt work ahead of you!

Keep your head on a swivel: Observe how others in the organization behave. Notice how people communicate, both verbal and non-verbal. Oftentimes, a face-to-face conversation is the most effective way to conduct business with a co-worker, especially if they are right down the hall!

Exceed expectations: It is important that you not only manage your time well, but that you exceed expectations of those around you. Example: If your boss tells you to get a task done and you have 5 days to do it, you shouldn’t be scrambling to get it done on the fifth and last day. Try to get it done on day three and leave some time for feedback.

ASK! ASK! ASK! Asking questions is crucial to your learning as an intern, and will help you master the skills of the job. However, be able to discern what information you can find yourself and what you need assistance finding. Remember: there are no “dumb” questions!

Focus: Mind your mobile phone use! Do not text with friends throughout the workday. Do not use social networking sites unless it is part of your job description. Ask about the policy for personal phone calls. You may be confident that being on your phone doesn’t affect your work, but experienced managers know that your productivity decreases the more you are on your phone.

Get to know your co-workers and identify those you can learn from: Ask co-workers about their own careers. How did they get into the field? What do they like about it? What do they find challenging? What advice do they have for you?

Network: Use this opportunity to develop and leverage your network. Talk about your career plans, and let co-workers know you're open to advice, both now and in the future. They can be helpful by sharing job leads, recommending you for a job and suggesting various career choices. Most people are happy to help, but they might not offer if you don't ask.

Differentiate yourself: Valuable skills that can differentiate yourself among your peers include leadership, passion, collaboration, communication, strong personal brand, flexibility, ability to follow instructions and ability to be a lifelong learner. Write a thank you note!

Dos and Don’ts of Email at your Internship or Job

DO: Personalize each message

Include the time of day and the person’s name (e.g. Good morning Joe; Good afternoon Jane).

DO: Always check spelling, grammar, attachments and addressee before clicking send*

One of the worst feelings is clicking send and then realizing you didn’t attach a document, or that you misspelled something. DO check to see who you are emailing, making sure the message is being sent to the person you intend to send the message to.

*BONUS: Do NOT over copy (cc). How many people actually need to know about this correspondence? Do not copy everyone you can think of. Send the message to the person or few people that actually need to know.

*BONUS #2: Use the “Reply All” option sparingly. Like above, consider who actually needs to know about this correspondence.

DO: Keep messages short

There’s no point in filling an email with fluff. Get straight to the point. Bullet points work well. Clearly articulate any questions you have or any follow up that is necessary.

DO: Remember some things are better kept private

If you do not want the contents of your email to end up “on the front page of the newspaper,” then don’t put it in an email. Everything is trackable, and nothing is ever completely deleted.

DON’T: Abbrv8… I mean, abbreviate

“thx” and “lol” or “c u @ wrk l8r” should never cross your mind (or keypad) when emailing at work.

DON’T: !!!!!!!!!

Overuse exclamation points. And, DON’T use or the dreaded “caps lock,” as it always comes across AS THOUGH YOU ARE YELLING.

DON’T: :) or :(

The use of “faces” or other emoticons are not appropriate in the work place.

DON’T: Send the One Word Reply. Don’t reply with only “Okay” or “Thanks” as your response, as no one needs extra emails that do not actually communicate anything.

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Internship Etiquette
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