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Starting the Job/Internship Off on the Right Foot

Whether starting a new internship, summer job, volunteer experience, or first full-time job, the transition from college to the workplace can be nerve-wracking. The advice below offers strategies to ease the transition. Please share this information with your student or graduate as they navigate their first days in the workplace. Hopefully being prepared will soothe the nerves inherently associated with beginning something new.

Before the first day, a new employee should:

  • Have all paperwork for Human Resources organized (if not already completed). Students who are unsure if all necessary paperwork has been completed should contact the company’s human resources office. During that call, students should ask what they will need to bring on the first day (e.g. social security card, passport, driver’s license, etc.).
  • Know the dress code of the office, the hours they are expected to work, parking or other transportation situation, and any arrival procedures (e.g., check in with security or their supervisor when they arrive).
  • Find out whether there is a cafeteria or if they will need to bring lunch.
  • Complete a test commute a few days before the first day of work. Ideally the test commute will be during the same time as a normal work commute.
  • Research the company and industry to learn as much as possible about the current products/services/goals of the organization. Industry research will allow the employee to understand the major industry forces her/his new boss and colleagues may be dealing with.

On the first day a new employee should:

  • Arrive early to meet their supervisor and get assignments for the day.
  • If possible, schedule some time with their supervisor to go over expectations (workload, attendance, dress, communication methods, deliverables, etc.) and what projects they will be assigned. If they’ve done their research on the company (as they should) this may be a good time to mention his/her interest in a project they heard about.
  • Take advantage of opportunities that arise at work. It is a great way to make connections and learn more about the company.

Other helpful tips to share with your student:

  • Don’t be the last one in or the first to leave.
  • Avoid taking long lunches.
  • Leave problems at home; you’re there to work.
  • Update your supervisor on your progress, or lack of it. If you are having issues it is best to address them before it becomes a larger problem. Also, there is no need to update them on every step (unless asked to do so). Ask questions if you have them. It shows you care about doing the work correctly.
  • If you successfully complete your current projects/assignments, take the initiative to ask for more. It is hard for supervisors to gauge workload of new employees and your initiative can help your supervisor see you as a top performer.
  • Limit socialization and stay off social media (unless it is part of the job). Think of an internship as a three-month long interview.
  • Remember to stay positive and show interest in your role. Even if the company decides not to offer a full-time role after a summer internship, receiving a good recommendation is important for the future.
  • Maintain a professional attitude in all situations, even activities outside of work with fellow co-workers.
  • Don’t bring a smelly lunch. J


Before employees leave their internship (or job) they should:

  • Start their professional network by inviting coworkers to connect on LinkedIn.
  • Set up an exit interview, if the company does not require this already. This is a good time to ask for a letter of recommendation.
  • Thank coworkers, fellow interns, supervisors, and anyone else who may have helped them successfully navigate their job or internship.
  • Update their resume right away while all the information is fresh.
  • Consider sharing their experience with other students at the Internship Showcase program in January (returning students only).

If your student is seeking extra advice, Chloe Hawker, one of the Career and Professional Development Center’s Career Peer Mentors (CPMs), writes a personal blog which includes lessons she learned during her internship in Washington, D.C. Here are a few of Chloe’s tips to share with your student or graduate;

Hopefully this advice eases some nerves on both your part and your student or graduate’s. Encourage them to reach out to us directly if they have questions; even during the summer and after graduation, the Career and Professional Development Center is always here to help!



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