Saturday, June 18, 2016

Soft Skills for Summer Interns

The most common word I hear from interns and about interns is "awkward". Here are a few corporate internship do's, don'ts and "do you's" that you won't learn in training:

1.  Do be polite to the support staff and assistants.  They will make your life so much easier. Learn their names.  Ask them about their weekends.  Not only are they valuable members of the company too, but they've probably been there a long time and can give you additional information about the company.  An internship is a long job interview.  You should continue to assess whether the company is a good fit for you and the staff is a great resource. 

2.  Don't talk about anything sensitive or confidential on the elevator.  Many companies share the building with other companies.  There could also be a visitor or client on board heading to a meeting.  Same rule applies to restaurants.

3.   Don't check your cell phone during meetings or meals.  If you have an emergency project you are working on and need to be on call, politely decline the invitation. You are an intern. If the full-time professionals can carve out an hour for a meeting, so can you.  In their minds, you are not that busy. It doesn't matter if you see them check their phones every 10 seconds. Resist.

4.   Related to the previous point, do not show up late or leave early at a meeting or meal.  Arrive 5 minutes early.  It will ease your anxiety and make things less awkward.  Stay for the whole meeting.  If you can't stay for the whole meeting because of a legitimate schedule conflict, the first choice is to not go at all and to let the organizer know that you have a conflict.  The second, less ideal option is to let the organizer know that you will have to leave early and to sit by the door. 

5.   Don't touch anything on anyone's desk unless the person specifically invites you to. 

6.   Do you when it comes to your own desk.  Keep it clean and organized, but otherwise the desk is your space for the next few weeks.

7.   Do play nice with the other interns.  Even if it is a competitive program, being rude or aloof with your co-interns will not win you any extra points. Leave a good impression with everyone. Be helpful where you can. Everyone is nervous and insecure.  I often ask interns how things are going with their co-interns.  While a negative report might not be enough to rescind an offer, it can cast doubt over that intern's ability to work well in teams.  Be the person that everyone wants to sit next to at those awkward dinners where you are trying to remember which fork to use.

8.  Do know which fork to use.  We have the Internet.  Learn table etiquette if you do not already know it.

9.  Do have a drink. It does not have to be alcoholic.  Your company is your host.  The event organizers want to make sure you are having a good time.  The other attendees feel more at ease and less awkward when everyone has a glass in hand.  My go-to is sparkling water and cranberry with lime.

10. Do you when it comes to drinking alcohol at company events.  You know your limits. 

11. Don't skip the pre-planned company events that the recruiters put together.  Those are usually great opportunities to meet more people at the company and bond with your summer class.  They also take a lot of time and thought to plan.  Instead of coming off as "hardworking," you'll come off as inconsiderate and entitled. The company expects you to be able to balance work and social events throughout the summer. 

12. Don't post about your internship on social media or text negative things about your internship to friends.  If the company saw it on the front page of a newspaper, would it cost you the job offer?  Your negative comments about one company may be seen by another company in which you are interested.

13. Do work hard to secure an offer for full-time employment.  It makes life easier.  Even if you decide not to accept the offer, always GTO (GET THE OFFER).

Do Enjoy Your Summer!

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