An internship that goes well can lead to employment (or at least a really good reference).
But, some common things trip up first-time interns and, the Australian workplace culture has a few little quirks that you should be ready for.
Here’s everything you need to know to make a great impression while you’re interning.
1. The basics
Making a good impression begins way before your the first day. A week or two before you start you need to find out a few things:
Who you’ll be working with and their roles within the company. Sometimes this information is on a company’s website. If not, look on LinkedIn with your settings on private.
What forms you need to sign and if you need any training. In typical Australian style, our workplaces usually require a lot of forms to be signed. You might also be given what’s called an OH&S induction or training (which is to do with health and safety in the workplace). Whatever training, forms or information you are given, take it seriously and get it done right away.
Exactly where and who you need to report to on your first day.
Who your main point of contact will be throughout the internship (usually called your internship supervisor).
How you plan on getting there and what you’ll do if something goes wrong (like a train not showing up).
What to wear – this is usually obvious from the type of company, but if in doubt, dress up rather than down.
2. Avoid the ‘casual’ trap
You might notice that Australian workplaces are more casual than other countries in a number of areas. For example, swearing sometimes happens in an Australian workplace, but you should still never, ever imitate it if you hear it.
After work drinks is also common. If you’re invited, you should most certainly say yes but don’t have more that 2 drinks maximum – even if everyone else has more.
In Australia, it’s not common to hear Mr/Mrs/Ms and more common to hear people call others by first names. As a general rule, greet people by the name that was used when you were introduced to them. The majority of the time, first names are fine. If you encounter someone super important (perhaps the head of the department), you may want to use Mrs/Mr. As always, when in doubt, aim to be more polite than less.
3. Master the art of the email
This is probably the most common way that people wind up in trouble on internships. You probably think you already know how to type and press ‘send’ but in a workplace, emails are so much more than that.
A poorly written email can make you sound rude and just one email sent to the wrong person or containing a mistake can cause you trouble. Here’s what to do:
- On your first day ask if you are expected to follow any email rules (such as using a certain signature).
Stick to the format: greeting, pleasantry, business, pleasantry, sign-off.
- Never skimp on the pleases and thank you’s.
Always double check who you’re sending an email to and be careful that you have Cc’d, Bc’d or forwarded the email to the appropriate people.
- Never send emails without subject lines.
Spellcheck everything twice and read all emails and attachments very carefully before sending.
Read down threads so that you fully understand the reason an email is being sent (and remember that people will read down on your threads as well)
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4. Demonstrate your positive attitude
This is without a doubt the most important thing. Your attitude to your work can be seen not just by the way you talk to people but by your entire conduct.
Smile, greet people and be friendly throughout the duration of your internship.
Being on time is another way of letting the organisation know that you’re serious about the job. Aim to be 5 minutes early every day. You should also let the people you’re working with know where you are throughout the day. If you go out to lunch let people know when you’ll be back and say goodbye when you leave for the day.
Don’t bring your phone out unless it is expected. And stay away from social media unless it’s part of your job.
5. Ask questions (but the right ones)
Asking questions make you seem interested and enthusiastic, and it’s also essential to ask questions if you don’t understand an instruction.
At the same time, don’t ask questions about things that you could figure out for yourself. Instead use the Google rule. If you could Google an answer, don’t hassle your supervisor about it.
6. Ask for more
There’re two ways to do this. Firstly, whenever you’ve finished something, don’t just sit around, always go to your boss and say ‘I’m finished with x, what can I help you with now?’
Secondly, once you’ve gotten the hang of things, ask for something more challenging to demonstrate that you’re ready and able to take on more complex tasks. The trick is to do this very nicely so that you don’t sound like you’re complaining. Keep it light and say something like, ‘I’m really interested in working on things like x in the future, could you please show me now that I have some time?’
7. Don’t let people forget you.
Never just leave an internship. Make sure that on your last day you thank everyone you worked with closely before you leave. After a week or two, write and email to thank your boss again, tell them about the things that you enjoyed and let them know you’re interested in working with them in the future.
(Source: Insider Guides)