Internship Corner – Navigating Office Culture as an Intern

Starting a summer internship is an exciting opportunity to gain real-world experience, learn new skills, and make valuable connections. But stepping into a new office environment can also be daunting, especially when it comes to understanding and navigating office culture. The National Association of Colleges and Employers breaks down the top career competencies that employers look for among recent graduates. Whether you’re working in a bustling corporate office or a laid-back startup, these tips will help you fit in, stand out, and make the most of your internship experience.

1. Observe and Adapt

When you first start your internship, take some time to observe how things work in the office. Notice how colleagues communicate with each other, how meetings are conducted, and what the general dress code is. Adapting to these norms will help you blend in seamlessly and show that you’re respectful of the company’s culture.

2. Be On Time

Punctuality is a simple yet powerful way to demonstrate your professionalism. Arrive on time, meet deadlines, and be prompt in responding to emails and meeting requests. If you’re worried about falling behind on projects, reach out to your supervisor as soon as you recognize you may not meet a deadline. Being reliable and dependable will earn you respect and show that you value your time and others’ as well.

3. Communicate Effectively

Clear and respectful communication is key to building good relationships in the office. Be mindful of your tone in emails and in-person conversations. When in doubt, aim on being more formal than casual in your communication until you get a better sense of the office dynamics. Remember to actively listen, ask questions when necessary, and seek feedback to improve your performance.

4. Show Initiative

While it’s important to complete the tasks assigned to you, going above and beyond can set you apart. If you see an area where you can contribute or a problem you can help solve, don’t hesitate to step up. Just be sure to balance this with your primary responsibilities and check with your supervisor if you’re unsure.

5. Be Respectful and Inclusive

Respect everyone in the workplace, regardless of their position. Treat your fellow interns, colleagues, and supervisors with kindness and courtesy. This not only contributes to a positive work environment but also reflects well on you as a professional.

6. Participate in Office Activities

Join in on office activities and social events when you can. This is a great way to get to know your colleagues outside of work and to show that you’re interested in being part of the team. Whether it’s a team lunch, a company outing, or a casual coffee chat, participating in these activities can help you build stronger connections.

7. Stay Open to Learning

Every office has its unique culture, and it’s important to stay open-minded and willing to learn. Embrace new experiences and be receptive to feedback. Use this opportunity to grow not just professionally but also personally.

Remember, an internship is a learning experience, and it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. By being observant, respectful, and proactive, you’ll not only navigate the office culture with ease but also leave a lasting positive impression. Good luck, and enjoy your internship journey!

By Eli Davis (She/They)
Eli Davis (She/They) Internship Program Manager