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Make an Impact on the Job

Making an impact in your internship or first full-time position requires understanding and following work-place etiquette. Work-place etiquette relates to behaving in an acceptable professional manner. Each work environment is different, and the rules are different from being a student. Here are a few guidelines: 

  1. Dress the part. 
    When you walk in the door of your work site, even if it is on campus, you are no longer a student. Appropriate attire is different for every organization. Look around you. What are others wearing? Model your dress and grooming after the professional staff.  
  2. Follow the chain of command. 
    It is important to know the formal and informal reporting structures within your organization. The unspoken rule is this: do not go around, behind, or over anyone. Follow the chain of command in all your communications and actions. That means go to your supervisor first. Also, identify the person you can contact in your supervisor’s absence. 
  3. Respect confidentiality. 
    You can talk about issues, projects, and the work environment, but don’t talk about people. Gossip is not productive or helpful. You are there to work on your projects and be productive.
  4. Respect the support staff. 
    They can be terrific allies in helping you get accustomed to the work environment, understand the unspoken rules, and accomplish your goals. Treat them with the respect.  
  5. Learn basic social skills. 
    Pattern your behavior after those around you. How you handle hellos, goodbyes, and basic courtesies of speech and action can benefit you or turn people off. For example, don’t sit down in someone’s office until you are invited to do so.
  6. Be on time. 
    Tardiness and absenteeism signal disrespect for others’ time and a lack of interest in the work. Promptness signals eagerness, responsibility, and respect for others. Always be on time or five minutes early. The only reasons that may justify an absence from work are illnesses or family emergencies. Contact your supervisor if you have an issue that will interfere with work. All the above applies to virtual meetings, in which you should log in early to ensure a good connection, keep your camera on, and make sure your background is neat or blurred.
  7. Learn to make a positive first impression. 
    Learn how to introduce yourself to those you don’t know. Be friendly, smile, and extend yourself. These are all parts of important first impressions.
  8. Take the initiative. 
    Offer to help on projects and assist others in the office without being asked. 
  9. Turn off the cellphone and don’t open social media sites. 
    Your employer expects you to work during the workday, not conduct personal business or be distracted by texting friends or checking social media.
  10. Be a good ambassador. 
    Be aware that you reflect the institution. How you perform and behave at work will establish your professional image. You might want to ask your previous supervisors for job recommendations. Have you proven that you can make it in that environment and earned a positive recommendation? What you do today can stick with you for a long time. Make it count!   

*Adapted from Muhlenberg College and Seattle University