Practical Advice on Starting Your Internship

635993893199221840-282810841_internship-1As many of you start your first internship in a corporate environment, here are some practical tips to make your internship a success.

  1. Cube-ville: Most companies use either cubes or an open seating plan.  Open seating plans are great for communication and collaboration, but BAD for privacy.  So, be aware that you are working in a community.
    • Use headphones: If you are listening to music, use headphones.  Even then, keep your music at a reasonable level.
    • Keep your voice at a reasonable level: If you are talking on the phone or having a conversation, be aware of the people around you.  Use a conference room if you have a long phone call.  DON’T use the speaker phone on your desk in your cube.
    • Keep your social media / YouTube / personal Internet surfing to a minimum: Remember you are work and people can see what you are doing, so don’t spend all day on social media or YouTube even if you are done with work.
    • Silence your mobile phone:  Keep your mobile phone on vibrate.  The worst is having a mobile phone constantly ringing or beeping due to text messages or alerts.
    • Avoid strong smells: If you are going to eat at your desk, avoid strong smelling foods like fish, certain meats, cabbage, etc.  Eat in the kitchen or the common areas if you have those kinds of foods.
  2. Meet & greet: Get to know your boss and your co-workers.  Create a small budget and invite a co-worker or someone at the company out for coffee or lunch several times a week.
  3. Read the news: Take a couple of minutes each day and read the headlines of the news.  Read the front page of the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, or Seattle Times (or your local newspaper) every day.  The news affects your work environment and you need to be aware of what is going on both for office conversation and work in general.
  4. Keep politics light: We are in an election year so there will be a lot of controversy over politics.  As an intern, I would refrain from engaging too deeply in politics or political discussions with your co-workers.  If you are asked, feel free to discuss and lightly defend your political preferences, BUT do not engage too deeply in a office debate on politics.  Remember, someone in the office is on both sides of the debate.  As an intern, it is best to steer clear!

The Rules on Grabbing Coffee

Having coffee is essential to a successful career.  Meeting someone for coffee or a meal is a great way to make new contacts or reconnect with friends, colleagues and connections.

There are rules for a coffee meeting that are important to be aware of for successful networking:

  1. If you are asking someone else for coffee, the other person should pick a place and time convenient for him or her.
  2. Be on time.  Obvious I know.
  3. Offer to buy coffee for the other person.
  4. Pick a table or location where it is easy to hear the other person.  Tables in the middle of Starbucks or near the barista can be extremely noisy.
  5. DO ask for advice.  Everyone loves to talk about him or herself, tell you their story and provide advice.
  6. DON’T ask for referrals to people.  Generally, a person offers to make a referral.  A referral is currency.  People tend to make referrals for people who are strong connections where making a referral is helpful to his or her relationship with the other person.  A cold referral is meaningless and often puts the person you are having coffee with in an awkward position.
  7. DON’T ask people whom you don’t have a deep relationship with for referrals to investors.  It doesn’t work.  If you are raising money, get referrals from people who know you well, mentors, investors in your company, board members or company advisors.  If the person you meet likes you OR likes the concept of your company, they will offer to make introductions to investors during or after your meeting.

There are probably others and I will keep updating this over time.  Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.