Professional Development: Business Etiquette for Interns

You may be “just an intern,” but if you ever want to more than that, it is important to carry yourself like a professional at all times. Here are a few tips for avoiding some classic intern mistakes.

Be on time. If your supervisor has asked you to arrive at the office at 9:00am, be there at 8:50am.  One of the biggest mistakes an intern can make is to arrive late or leave early without permission. At school you may be able to sneak into the back of a large lecture hall and go un-noticed, but your supervisor and co-workers certainly will take note. If you are running more than five minutes late for work or a meeting, it is appropriate to call. Being on time regularly is the first thing you can do to demonstrate your respect for your supervisor and your trustworthiness.

Always introduce yourself. Introductions are a very important aspect of professional life. Extend your hand with confidence (avoid the wet-noodle shake as well as the vice-grip shake!) and always use your first AND last name.  Be sure to repeat someone’s name to help you remember it.

Be polite to everyone. It’s important to treat everyone in your office with respect, from your fellow interns all the way up to the CEO.  The receptionist is often the most “in the know” person in the office and can help steer you in the right direction. You never know when a co-worker will be in a position to assist you in your future career path. It is important that co-workers at all levels think highly of you and your work product.

Dress for success. Looking the part is key to making a good impression. Click here to read more tips on professional attire.

Communicate effectively and professionally. The telephone can be intrusive, so have a definite purpose for calling. When leaving a voicemail, include clear and pertinent details. Speak especially slowly when stating your name and phone number – people tend to speed up at this point, even though it is the most important information! When emailing colleagues and outside contacts write professional emails and avoid using abbreviations and emoticons. Be straightforward and avoid unnecessary complex sentences and details.

Be courteous of political and cultural differences. Washington,DC is a politically and culturally diverse city. When entering a new office setting, one should never assume that you know everyone’s opinions and backgrounds. Be aware and sensitive of saying things that may be cause offense.

Don’t be the “drunk intern.” This should go without saying, but it is a classic intern mistake – even if you are over 21, do not have more than one or two drinks at a work function. Remember that you are representing your organization. You may be invited to happy hour with colleagues from work, but make sure to keep yourself under control. You don’t want stories of your inappropriate behavior to be floating around the office the next day.

Avoid personal internet/phone usage. College students are used to being connected 24-7, but it is important to limit this during internship hours. Having gchat up on your screen when your supervisor approaches your desk will not send a positive message. Everyone does personal things while at work, but try to restrict your Facebook, email, gchat and texting use to lunchtime.

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