Common sense and courtesy are the basics for professional
conduct, but we recommend reviewing some of the finer points of
office etiquette before you make your debut.
In some ways, being an intern is like being a freshman
again-you're lower than entry-level, you've never worked in a
professional environment, and you'd really like to avoid
committing any embarrassing blunders. Common sense and
courtesy are the basics for professional conduct, but we
recommend reviewing some of the finer points of office
etiquette before you make your debut. Creating a good
impression during your internship will help you secure
networking contacts, or maybe even a full-time job.
Keeping up on what is appropriate workplace behavior and
what's not can be a real challenge, especially for someone
new to the workplace. In addition, the people you'll be
working with probably will be older than you and may have
different values. Remember that you're in an office-not a
frat house-and avoid these office no-nos:
Don't swear at work; it will only make you sound immature
and unintelligent and might make coworkers uncomfortable.
Remember that people like to maintain a certain realm of
Don't steal office supplies.
Don't talk negatively about coworkers.
Avoid sexually suggestive comments, racist language, and
Try not to contradict your boss.
Keep personal calls to a minimum.
Email has become just as much a part of conducting
business as face-to-face meetings, phone calls, and written
memos. Effective communication-verbal and written, including
email-will help you make the best possible impression.
Keep your messages short and to the point.
Remember that tone is easy to misinterpret over email, so
Use proper English, grammar, and spelling.
Always include a subject line in your message for easy
Use the signature feature. (It looks professional and it's
Avoid sending personal email from work. (Your company may
monitor your emails.)
Putting your best shoe forward
"Business casual" is the vague dress code that many
offices follow these days. If you don't know how to dress for
your first day of work, ask your hiring manager what people
wear to the office so you aren't the only one wearing
Never be sloppy; always be ironed, tucked in, and combed.
If your office policy stipulates business attire, you can't
go wrong with the conservative suit. As a student, you're
not expected to own an extensive business wardrobe; just
make sure you always look professional and polished.
If your office is casual, or has casual Fridays, don't pull
out the baseball hat and shorts right away. Wait to see how
casual is casual.
Conservative is a good rule of thumb; tight-fitting or
revealing clothes will create the wrong impression.
Ah - the telephone. You've been using it all your life;
what more do you need to know? Plenty. Just as grammatical
errors work against you in professional documents, the way
you handle yourself in phone conversations and on voice mail
messages creates an impression of you.
Speak clearly and slowly.
Answer your phone in a professional manner. Identify
yourself. Be polite.
If you find yourself tangled in a game of phone tag, don't
worry-just be persistent. Don't give up just because you
think you're being annoying. Tags like "I'm sure you must
be very busy" can be helpful.
If you have phone phobia, try writing out what you want to
say before you make a call. This way you'll be sure to
cover all your points and you won't sound jumbled.
If you're the opposite of phone-phobic, remember that
conversation is a two-way street. Let the other person
How friendly is too friendly?
As a college student, you pride yourself on your
hyper-developed social skills. But a workplace is not a
party. Boundaries can be a good thing. While we're not
suggesting you fend off traditional friendships in the
workplace, it may be easier to have some borders between your
work and nonwork lives. That way, outside tensions won't
creep into your work, and you'll truly be able to leave work
behind at the end of each day. And should you find yourself
falling in love with the hottie in the next cube, try to
think clearly. If you're serious about developing your
professional reputation, getting involved with a coworker is
a risky move.
Play nicely with others
Don't be surprised if you don't get along with everyone
in the office. Working in teams, especially, can make for
some combustible situations. As an intern, it's your duty to
get along with the staff as well as possible. But an
impossible working relationship can cause stress and anxiety,
create tension in the office, and lead to poor performance.
So what can you do?
Remember that you and your fellow intern or coworker don't
have to be friends; just focus on improving your working
relationship. Communicate with each other in
straightforward, nonthreatening discussion.
Talk about the barriers that are preventing you from doing
your jobs as they relate to one another. Recognize your own
Talk about solutions. Work with your colleague to remedy
the situation by agreeing to be mindful of the issues that
are bothering each of you. If you find that it's just
impossible for you and a coworker to get along, act
professionally no matter what, and be sure you don't make a
worse situation for yourself. If the conflict affects your
work, speak with your supervisor, but avoid bad-mouthing
the other employee. And don't act petty. Your own
reputation may suffer.
Common sense is the best rule of thumb when navigating the
rules of office etiquette. And if you err on the side of
conservative behavior, you will always be in the clear.
Remember, you're the new kid. Chances are you're the youngest
and most inexperienced, as well. Be observant, ask questions,
and do a good job.