The semester has ended and you have moved out of your dorm room. If you aren’t studying abroad, taking a summer class, or working part-time, you’re likely interning somewhere. Internships are great ways to build hands-on experience in your desired career field, and they’re also great for networking and even making new friends. I had an editorial internship — my first internship EVER — last summer and I had such a fantastic experience. Of course, looking back, I found some things I could improve on, and I wish I had done a few things differently, but it’s a learning process, right? If you’re curious about what my experience was like, be sure to check out my post on What I Learned From My First Editorial Internship. I didn’t know too much about what to expect, other than the fact that I was told I would take on the same assignments as full-time employees. I didn’t know anyone who already had editorial internship experience, so I was kind of like the guinea pig of my friend group. I didn’t know what would be considered appropriate office dress, and I pretty much didn’t ask all the questions I probably should have asked beforehand. Because I want to make sure you don’t stress on the inside as much as I did when I started my first internship, here are 10 questions to ask before your first day no matter what kind of internship you get.
1. What time should I be in the office?
This is probably one of the most important questions that you can’t be shy about asking! I know you’ve heard of the average 9-5, but not every internship requires that you work during those hours. Some may ask you to come in a little later, and others may ask you to come in a little earlier. Some are even a little flexible and allow you to come in any time between, say, 8am and 10am. Usually, your hiring manager will tell you this info ahead of time, but if they don’t, be prepared to ask. Last year, I always tried to be in the office before my boss. Being late is obviously a huge internship mistake, but being there early will earn you a really good impression. Try saying something like, “what time are you usually in the office? Should I plan to arrive then, too?”
2. What is considered appropriate office attire?
Like I said, I didn’t know what was considered appropriate for the office on my first day because I failed to ask my hiring manager beforehand. I guess the question just didn’t occur to me, and I spent hours the night before combing through my closet looking for something decent. I settled on a plain button down, leggings and my favorite riding boots (it was still quite chilly at the time). I polished off the look with a statement necklace. My goal was to look business casual so that I was neither too dressed up nor too dressed down. And because it was still chilly, I brought a blazer with me so I was prepared either way.
The office dress code varies from company to company, honestly. Some are very laid back and will allow you to wear shorts, sundresses and jeans, while others will prefer it if you kept it more on the business casual side. Asking before you begin will give you enough time to buy any dress shirts if you need them, or invest in dress pants.
3. Should I bring my laptop or other materials from home?
This is yet another question I FAILED to ask…I didn’t even think about it, but not all internships will give you access to company computers. I just assumed that because it was an editorial position, I would have desk space and a computer to work on. Well, that and the fact that I was told during my interview that I would have a desk and computer to work at if I was selected. There may be times when having a laptop or even a tablet on you will come in handy, so ask to make sure it isn’t required. If you must bring your laptop, be sure to pack your charger and any other accessories you need.
4. Is breakfast or lunch offered?
Well, don’t ask it LIKE THAT…
At my previous internship, everyone in the office had access to the kitchen, so I could make myself a cup of coffee, have any drinks in the fridge, and help myself to bagels, pizza, and anything else that was catered or ordered. Of course, it’s always best to have some money for food on you at all times just in case. Also ask what the lunch policy is. If it isn’t clear if your internship offers you food, you can bring up the topic subtly by saying something like, “are there any great brunch or lunch places near the office?” Then, cross your fingers and hope they say something like, “actually, on Wednesdays we order pizza for everyone.”
5. Who can I contact if I have trouble getting inside the office?
It’s important to have contact information other than email of at least one person you’ll be working with. If the receptionist isn’t in and the office door is locked, you’ll need some way of getting into the office. Make sure you can call your boss and ask them to let you in if push comes to shove.
6. How does compensation work?
You’ll usually be told ahead of time whether or not the internship is paid, but make sure you understand how you will collect payment. Will it be deposited directly into your account once a month? Will you find a check on your desk biweekly? Also, become familiar with the person who deals with administrative tasks such as payments, so if for whatever reason you have a question about your money, or are confused, it’ll be a lot less awkward to go ask them.
7. Is there parking available?
If you will have to drive to your internship, make sure you know whether or not you can use the company parking lot (or if there’s even a company parking lot!!!) Asking this will help you plan ahead in case you’ll need to leave home a little extra early to scout out a parking spot near the office.
8. What will a typical day look like?
Say something like, “out of curiosity, what will a typical day for an intern look like? I just want to make sure I come prepared.” This way, you’ll know if you’ll be moving around a lot so you can avoid wearing the cute new heels you just bought. Plus, if you’ve suddenly got cold feet about your internship — which is perfectly fine and normal — hearing what your day-to-day will look like could calm your nerves and make you feel beter about it.
9. Who will I report to?
Your hiring manager won’t necessarily be the person you submit your work and time sheets to. You’ll usually be told who you will report to after you submit any necessary paperwork, but if you aren’t, make sure you ask, and on day one, make sure you introduce yourself to this person.
10. Who can my career center contact?
If it isn’t a paid internship and you must be able to receive college credit, make sure you ask what the company’s policies for credit are, and how your career center can get ahold of the hours and work that you log. Know ahead of time whether or not you’ll need a signature from your supervisor, or if you’ll have to submit a spreadsheet of your hours.
Good luck on your internship, everyone!
How are you preparing for your first day?