Reminding your summer interns to maintain professional behavior

July 28, 2011 at 7:00 am | Posted in Intern Advice | Leave a comment

Susan Sandberg

If your students were fans of The Office, the award-winning TV comedy that recently finished its seventh season, they may have the wrong impression of workplace etiquette. And Representative Anthony Weiner of New York has certainly not been a good example of proper behavior for career success. The following tips will help your summer interns build and maintain professional reputations:


  • Advise your student interns that office romances can create problems. Flirting is fine on campus, but not at work. If someone at work flirts with them, they would be well advised to keep the relationship strictly professional until the internship is over. Recommend that your student interns develop best friends away from the internship site. Acting overly friendly at the office can be misinterpreted by co-workers as aggressive behavior. And dressing in a provocative manner can send out the wrong message, too.
  • Emphasize to your interns that they refrain from gossiping either in the office or at a company social event. Instead of drinking alcohol at an office event, they could practice being good listeners without giving away their own opinions. People enjoy being around someone who listens rather than talks only about himself/herself. A good conversation technique is to ask impersonal questions about sports, weather, company history, cafeteria food etc., but caution them not to discuss money, religion, sex, or politics.
  • Alert them to the dangers of office politics. If departments are at odds or a co-worker is upset about corporate policies, they can act sympathetic but shouldn’t take sides on any issues. You never know which side will win, so don’t play the game. They should keep personal opinions to themselves as well as personal histories.
  • Arrive early. Getting to work about 15 minutes before everyone else creates an excellent first impression. When employees walk in and see interns hard at work, they immediately conclude that they have a strong work ethic and can’t wait to get to the office. Recommend that your interns complete projects ahead of time and do more than what is required. For example, if the assignment is a 3-page report, do a 5-page report or survey 15 customers rather than the requested 10.
  • Talk about work. A good way to “fit in” to the office environment is to ask work-related questions, avoiding office gossip. Students will be perceived as real team members rather than temporary interns.  Offer to help wherever needed. When students finish the day’s assignment, they should ask their office mates if they need any help. “Is there anything I can help you with?” is a good mantra to develop. Even if the answer is “No,” an intern will have created an image as a helpful person willing to take on extra duties to lighten the office workload.

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