The Good Intern
New Year, New Goals
The First Day
Posted by Michelle Pence - - 0 comments

After putting hours of thought into how the first day of your new internship will go- meticulously planning what you're going to wear, researching the background of the company, and trying to manage the anxious thoughts running through your mind- the thought that upon meeting you, your new colleagues will form an opinion of you within 3-5 seconds is ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING.  Add in that it takes a whole lot more time to change that initial impression than it does to form it, and you should be officially shaking in your boots.

While 3-5 seconds is truly not a heck-of-a lot of time, it is completely possible to make the BEST first impression and convince everyone at your new gig that you will be the best intern they've ever had, as long as you follow these simple rules.

It's all about the non-verbals

Nonverbal communication is not only my favorite kind of communication to study (anyone seen the show Lie to Me?), but it's also one of the most important and hardest to control.  Your attitude and how you present yourself on the first day of an internship will speak volumes about how you are as a professional, and give people an idea of what they can expect from you during your internship.  As soon as you walk in the door on day one, make it clear that you are genuinely happy to be there and are gracious for the opportunity.  This can be achieved by simply keeping a smile on your face.  You want to appear friendly and approachable, because looking overwhelmed or unhappy will give people the idea that you aren't capable or don't want to be there.  Also, whether you're sitting or standing, practice good posture and avoid nervous habits such as nail-biting so you don't come off as sloppy or unprofessional.  

Look the part

It's an undeniable, and sometimes regrettable, fact that people judge you based on your appearance.  At most internships, in the beginning it's better to blend in, rather than stand out and draw lots of attention to yourself.  In some industries individuality and unique personal style are good and even encouraged, but when starting a typical internship, stay on the safe-side with your dress by looking clean-cut and conservative.  Don't wear anything too bold or revealing, and make sure your clothing is clean and in good condition.  Looking like you just rolled out of bed is a definite no-no for the first day, or any day for that matter.  As you get further along in your internship, you can decide what is acceptable to wear and start adding more personal elements to you appearance, but when trying to make that great first impression, playing it safe is the best bet.

Talk the talk

The initial conversations you share with your new colleagues are going to be one of the most obvious opportunities to make a good impression.  Don't hesitate to introduce yourself to people if introductions aren't offered to you, since these are the people you definitely want to get in good with during your internship for many different reasons.  You want to make sure that your speech is clear and confident, making you appear like a complete professional.  Avoid mumbling, using slang, and don't EVER curse.  

One thing that I personally try to do in professional settings is control my nerves and anxieties, and speak like I'm completely confident and comfortable with the situation, even when it's not true.  Some tips to remember when talking to people at work are to always look a person in the eye when you're talking to them, and make sure you have a firm, but not bone-crushing, handshake.  Having to remember numerous people's names is another challenge, so when a person introduces themselves, repeat their name back to them by saying something along the lines of "It's so nice to meet you so-and-so", or repeat their name in your head a couple times.  First day conversations should bear on the professional side, sticking with topics relating directly to your internship, but after that, feel free to ask questions and get to know the people at your internship.  You will have a much more positive experience if you do.

Show 'em what you've got

How you handle the tasks you're given on your first day will say a lot about how you are as an intern.  No matter how dull the task, be enthusiastic about doing it.  You're happy to be there, remember?  Take notes during your training, ask questions when necessary, and you should start off on a great foot.  Remember to use common sense before asking your supervisor too many questions.  No one likes an intern who doesn't use their brain before opening their mouth.  If you're really questioning what the heck you're doing, by all means ask away.  I've found that some employers will use the first couple days to test interns, and see exactly what they can/can't handle.  Even if you feel overwhelmed by the tasks that you're given, make every effort to stay calm and work through them.  I've had internships where I started out doing the most boring tasks like massive amounts of filing (ugh), but always stayed positive and was later given much more important things to do.

If you are able to remember any of my advice on your first day, remember that CONFIDENCE IS KEY.  Go in with a good attitude, maintain that positivity, and you should be the star intern you were hoping to be.

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