What to Prepare for Your First Day of Internship

Read, understand and implement the following tips to help you shine on your first day.
Carmen Teh
Writer, gradsingapore

After countless applications and non-stop interviews, you’ve finally landed yourself that coveted internship. Congratulations! Pat yourself on the back for a job well done but remember, that is only the beginning. As your first day of internship approaches, you can expect to break out in cold sweat and to feel butterflies permanently settling themselves in your stomach.

It’s completely normal to get those first-day nerves – it happens to all of us! However, it’s important to make a good impression from day one so you can set the stage for a successful internship experience. Good preparation and understanding a few key workplace basics can go a long way in helping you achieve that.

Here are some tips to ensure your first day goes smoothly: 

The day before 

  • Know exactly where you’ll be based and where you need to report to on your first day. Check the map on your phone and note down the directions on how to get there. Usually, the company website also shows directions to their respective offices.
  • Remember the name of your reporting officer so you don’t show up at the front desk looking clueless and disorganised. You’re likely to report in the morning when everyone is just walking into the office or busy preparing to start their day, so they may not be too pleased to help a new intern who shows up on his or her first day underprepared.
  • Plan your journey. Give yourself some breathing time for bad traffic, MRT breakdowns, or bus delays. If you’re unfamiliar with your office area, include additional time in case you’re lost. If you’re driving, figure out the nearest parking area. Take note that not every office building provides parking for those without season parking passes.
  • Revise any specialised knowledge or skills you may need for the job. You may be lacking in experience, but make sure you’re armed with impressive theoretical knowledge.
  • Research and read up about the company. While this may be something you’ve already done while you were applying for the internship position, it is good to tune in to the company’s latest news. You can start by checking out their social media profiles. You may also read about the history of the organisation, their vision and mission, or what they’re currently working on if you haven’t done so already.
  • Ensure you have enough work-appropriate attire. Some companies can be quite uptight about what their employees wear to work, while others are more flexible. If you’re unsure, it is okay to wear a smart attire on your first day. It’s better to overdress than underdress in this situation.
  • Pack your bag the night before with essentials, such as extra money, some snacks and a notebook with pen. Bring along a blazer or jacket in case the office is cold.

While at the workplace 

  • Confirm with your supervisor your working hours, and if you need to take your lunch break at a particular time.
  • Keep your desk neat and tidy. This is one of the easiest ways to make a good impression. Do it well.
  • If you’re expected to answer the phone, learn how to use the office phone system. You should have a sheet with the names of your colleagues, their designations, as well as their extension numbers. Keep it accessible by the phone.
  • Take note of email protocols to adopt, e.g. using a particular signature file, salutation or sign-off. It goes without saying that the tone of your email must remain formal and professional at all times.
  • If you’re invited to attend meetings with colleagues or clients, clarify beforehand whether your input would be welcome or if you are expected to sit and observe. This is the perfect time to make use of your notebook and pen to take down meeting notes. Regardless of whether you’re involved in the discussed projects, use the time to learn more about what the company does.
  • When briefed on a task, take the time to fully understand what you need to do and ask questions if necessary. Don’t be shy or feel intimidated. This is the time for you to break out of your shell and learn on the job, with practically zero fallout.
  • As mentioned earlier, bring extra cash on your first day. You may not know how much lunch costs at your workplace. Even if you do, the extra cash will come in handy if your colleagues decide to take you out to a restaurant or café instead of the nearby hawker centre for lunch.
  • Check in at the end of the day with your manager(s) to tell them you’re getting ready to leave. Always ask if there’s anything else they need you to do for the day. Don’t just disappear! This is the rule of thumb not just for the first day, but the rest of your internship.

So you’ve survived your first day. What’s next? Continue to listen attentively and learn well during your internship. Use the time to network and gather as much experience as you can. You’ll never know that the good first impression you’ve set won’t eventually lead you to get a permanent position in the company.