Academic Internships Office

Tips for Success

Your first day on the job is like the first week at college. You are inundated with new people and information, new processes and procedures, different ways of doing things and a whole new set of responsibilities and expectations. Sometimes it's tricky to figure out the Dos and Don'ts.

To help you through your transition, here are a few tips to get you started on the right foot and stay there.

  1. Be Punctual. Arrive on time, a few minutes early actually. No amount of staying late will make up for not being to work on time. If there is a transportation issue that prevents you from being punctual, talk with your supervisor and your co-workers so they will expect you when you can get there and you won't be tagged as habitually tardy. Also, don't jump the clock at quitting time. Leave no sooner than the strike of the clock for the close of your work schedule. Being willing to stay late to meet a deadline, yours or someone else's, will gain the respect of your boss and your co-workers.
  2. Develop a Reputation for Dependability. Following through with assignments and meeting deadlines are important characteristics to develop. As a professional, to build your career, you will need to have these characteristics inherently a part of who you are. This can be an important part of the references your intern employer can cite for you in the future.
  3. Do More Than Is Expected. Doing only what is expected puts you among the masses of expendable workers. Take the initiative to follow up and go the extra mile. When you have the opportunity, always offer to be helpful and lend assistance to others.
  4. Be Discreet. Never discuss organization business and people in detail or by name in public places where strangers can overhear. Even in private, be discreet with outsiders about organization politics, problems, and business. Never become part of the gossip section.
  5. Get Along With Co-workers. Be flexible and tolerant in the workplace. Find ways to get along, even with the most difficult co-worker. The number one reason most people are terminated from their first job is failure to get along with their co-workers. Disharmony creates a less productive workplace even among those not directly involved in the disagreement. Always do your best to make it a pleasant work environment.
  6. Anticipate Problems. When your responsibilities depend on assistance from others, make sure they know and understand what you are requesting. Make sure you follow through and check on whether the work has been done or if any problems have come up.
  7. Understand "boss" language. "If it isn't too much trouble..." means, "Do it, the sooner the better." "If I may make a suggestion…." means, "Do it this way…" "I don't want to rush you." means, "Hurry up." Learn the cues your boss uses.
  8. Develop a Sense of Timing. When wanting to make a request, be sensitive to workplace issues and making your request at the right time. Many factors - the boss's mood, the success of your last project, the company's latest earning report - can make the difference between a positive or a negative response.
  9. Work to Improve Yourself. Read industry and trade publications. It is important to know what is going on in your career field and related publications will help you keep you informed. This will also show you are interested in your job, your organization, your career and the importance of current information.
  10. Be Totally Honest. Never take anything from the organization that does not belong to you. As insignificant as a pencil or a pen might be, nothing is worth losing your self-respect. If, somehow, you have painted yourself into a corner, nothing is so serious that lying won't make it worse. Be totally honest, always.


Understanding how to satisfy your superiors by doing things without them having to ask will help propel you above the status of just another expendable worker.

Vocabulary is critical to being accepted as a new professional. Whether it is in casual conversation with a potential co-worker or supervisor, or in an interview, or in the workplace, using professional vocabulary is important to your success. Start now to incorporate professional vocabulary into your conversations. Be aware of student jargon and careful not to use that in professional conversations. Employers will not take the time to retrain you in language and communication skills. Most employers want their organization to be represented in the best professional manner. Showcase yourself in that light with professional vocabulary.

Likewise, your appearance is representative of your professional image. It is not necessary to spend many hundreds of dollars on an expensive wardrobe. Clean, pressed, and in good repair are the keys to success. At least one suit is important, but most dress codes are business casual for everyday work. Grooming is another part of your professional appearance. While at school, you were quite welcome and accepted to be unshaven or with unstyled hair. Sandals, Berkinstocks, and Nikes are fine in this context. However, as a professional you will want to take particular care of these details and adhere to the industry standards.

These tips for success are to help you initiate your professional career through your internship. Integrating these concepts, behaviors, and values into your work ethic will do much to set you apart and strengthen your candidacy in a very competitive pool. Following these guidelines, you will show awareness and initiative that will surely be noticed.

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PLU is committed to providing equal opportunity in employment and in education for all members of the University community without regard to an individual's race, color, creed, religion, gender, national origin, age, mental or physical disability, marital status, sexual orientation or any other status protected by law.