What to do Before You Start Your Internship

What to do Before You Start Your Internship


You got the internship! Congratulations!

….Now what? The nerves are building up, you’re not sure what the next step is. There’s definitely some stuff you should do before you start your 9-5 life, but what?

I have done a lot of Googling and asked a lot of people for their advice on how to prepare for an internship over the last two years. This list is a compilation of the most helpful advice I found.

1. Learn your commute

The easiest and possibly most helpful way to feel prepared on the first day of work is to practice your commute. Find out exactly where your office is, how long it takes to get there and where you can park before it’s 9:15 and you’re 30 minutes late to orientation. I recommend doing this at the time you would on your first day, but if you don’t want anyone to see you testing it out you can go at night or on the weekend when no one is at the office. Just don’t forget to account for traffic on your first day. If you can’t practice your commute, just make sure to Google map it before the morning of, so you can leave yourself plenty of time to get there.

Pro tip: During the first couple days of work, ask around and see if there’s anyone you can carpool with. Carpooling means you get to use the carpool lane, you get to drive less AND you get to build relationships with your coworkers. Nice one, intern!

2. Learn the dress code

There are very few things worse than showing up to an event underdressed. One of those things is showing up to work underdressed. Take the time to look over the employee handbook and find out just what you’re in for. Some companies restrict certain fabrics and cuts, while others have no dress codes at all. The important rule of thumb is that if you have ANY doubt whatsoever in what you’re supposed to be wearing, dress up. No one ever talked badly about the newbie for looking way too professional on their first day. They do talk about that newbie who looks like a total slob. Buying clothes for an internship is awkward and weird and you might not know how certain articles of clothing are supposed to look, but just keep the word “professional” on your mind and ask the people who work in the store for their opinions. You’ll be able to get at least a week’s worth of clothes.

Pro tip: Before you start, focus on the basics. Grab some button down shirts, a pair of black pants. Wait until after your first week to redo your entire wardrobe so you can see what everyone else is wearing.

3. Look over your job description

Chances are you got your job offer a couple of months ago. Go back and make sure you know what skills are expected of you and that you can confidently use them. It never hurts to do a little googling and brush up on those skills you haven’t used in a while. At least know where you can find how-to videos online. Most importantly for everyone: go over basic Excel stuff. Whether you’re already familiar or not, you’re going to have to use Excel and the other members of the Microsoft Office Suite at your job.

Pro tip: Be able to summarize your job in a sentence or two. When you’re meeting new people on your first day, the most common question after “What’s your name?” is “So what are you going to be doing here?” and giving them a blank stare and an “Ummmm” is not the best first impression you could be giving.

4. Look over your company’s mission

Your first day, you’ll be meeting a lot of important people, potentially those who helped form the company or others who are high up on the corporate totem pole. Remembering the info you memorized for your interview will come in handy if asked about the company and where you fit and why you chose it. Hopefully you’re familiar with what your company does and why, but it will mean a lot to your coworkers to know that you are passionate about the mission and excited to be a part of their team.

Pro tip: You should keep this in mind throughout your internship. Maybe you took your internship just because you wanted an internship, but everyone will notice if you are enthused about the company and what they’re doing. It will help you be a better team player and a better employee.

5. Do some soul searching

Once you’ve gone over your company’s mission and your job description, take some time to reflect on what you want to get out of your internship. This is, after all, a learning experience for you. Take the time to outline some professional goals for the course of your internship. What skills to you want to acquire? What do you want to improve on? It’s important to do this before your internship starts because once you’re thrown into the hustle and bustle of a 9-5 job, you’ll be too busy to think about it unless you intentionally carve out a chunk of time to do so. Once you have some ideas, write them down so you can occasionally check in and see if you’re on the right track.

Pro tip: Share your goals with your manager. Your manager is there to give you projects, yes, but they’re also there to help you make the most of your intern experience. When you share your goals with them, chances are they’ll want to help you achieve them. They can help you refine your goals so that they fit your job and can even integrate them into the projects that they give you.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

If you’re agonizing over the dress code or can’t sleep at night because you can’t remember if you’re supposed to arrive at 8 or 9, send an email to the person who hired you! Chances are, part of their job description is to answer questions from new hires. You’ll get peace of mind, and they’ll be happy you’re preparing for your new job. Don’t be afraid to get the answers you need to be confident and happy on the first day.

Pro tip: On the other side of the spectrum, don’t send 10,000 emails to that poor person. Spend some time brainstorming and write out all of your questions in one email. Once you see them next to each other, you can decide which questions you can live without knowing the answer to and delete them. Better for both parties.

7. Pack your bag

You’re almost there! So it’s the night before, and you are getting ready. Don’t forget to bring these things:

  1.  Notebook & Pen – they’re going to throw a TON of information at you, and you’ll forget 90% of it within 10 minutes. Write it all down so you can look back and ask as few repetitive questions as possible (they’re inevitable).
  2. Identification Documents – you’re going to be filling out a lot of paperwork on your first day. For some of the forms, you’ll need your social security number, your bank account routing number, and your passport (or some other forms of identification which can be found here). show them you’re prepared by bringing all of the necessary information with you.
  3. Water Bottle –Stay hydrated! Those paper cups by the water cooler are so wasteful. Go green and get a cool reusable water bottle!
  4. Lunch – on your first day, it’s important to bring a lunch. You might not need it, but if you do need it and you don’t have it that you will be super bummed. On the first day, you’ll be able to figure out your office’s lunch culture. Maybe you’ll be packing a turkey sandwich every day, maybe you’ll never have to bring out your Scooby Doo lunchbox again.
  5. Mints/Gum – Nothing is worse than being trapped talking to someone with bad breath, and you don’t want to be that person on your first day.
  6. Lip Balm – 9 hours is a really long workday! Plenty of time for your lips to get chapped. Bring lip balm so your smile is as dazzling as it usually is, without chapped or cracked lips.

You can do it! You’re ready! You got this!

I hope these tricks help you feel more confident for your first day of your new internship. Remember why you got the position, and live every day like it’s a job interview.

Keep it real, keep it humble, keep it professional.

And good luck!



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