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Office Etiquette

December 9, 2008

At a meeting/interview with Hill Holliday yesterday, I found myself talking with CEO Mike Sheehan about what he looks for in an intern. He said that the main thing he would notice about interns around the office, is their office etiquette. He described this as almost a “sixth sense” of sorts, and explained to me that this is the most important attribute of an intern. 

This conversation got me thinking about my internships and my personal office etiquette. Does it differ from office to office? Of course, but this is where a lot of interns may find their downfall. It is always possible to get comfortable at an internship, or at any job, and feel that you can act as you would around your friends, but you must remember, these are the people that will look to hire you in the future. 

This past summer, I found myself falling under this spell in the office that I worked, and I became too comfortable with my surroundings. I was never rude or unfriendly to anyone, but at points, I would act unprofessional. But, like all internships, this was a learning experience. I am confident in saying that these days I have developed my “sixth sense” and learned how to maintain proper office etiquette. 

So, for all of the interns out there, here are a few basic things to remember at your next internship. 

Ask questions, bring a notepad, limit repetition.

It is always important to ask questions if you do not understand something that you have been assigned, but asking for someone to repeat directions shouldn’t be done. As an intern it is important to listen to everything that your “superior” says. Does that sound so hard? Always bring a notepad, constantly write and ask for more details if necessary. 

I don’t want you to be scared of asking questions, because everyone needs to. Just know that there is always a right question to ask.

Imagine if you were in class, and your professor explained an assignment, and the kid in the back raises his hand because he wasn’t paying complete attention so he asks for it to be repeated – DON’T BE THAT KID. Be the kid that took notes the first time, then has a productive question to ask on how the assignment can be done – this will be noticed. 

Don’t Interrupt  – Don’t “linger”

If you have a question or have something to tell your manager, feel free to do so if they allow. But, remember, if they are on the phone, or in a meeting, or doing something important, you can always TELL THEM LATER. You don’t want to stand around and wait for them to get off the phone or out of their meeting. Why, you ask? Because, you can be doing something else! The time you spent waiting around could have been spent getting something done, which will impress them much more than you think. 

(Of course there will be times where it is necessary to interrupt, but this is where you have to develop the “sixth sense”) 

Work is for working – Always ask for more

I have to admit, I am guilty of doing this, but I have tried to ween myself off of this bad habit. WHEN AT WORK, YOU SHOULD WORK. This means, no Facebook, no ESPN, no Addicting Games. There are times during the day where you can check your e-mail, maybe share a fun article you found on Twitter, but surfing through your newest tagged pictures from the weekend is not acceptable. You may think that you have nothing to do, but the problem is that you haven’t asked! If you are bored, ask someone around the office to help with something. There will always be someone who needs help, and it would show great effort and work ethic if you were the one at the office that they could always rely on to get that done. 

Know your office and your coworkers

People will always be impressed with the amount you can learn in a short time. Try to get to know everyone at your internship, not just the people that you directly work with. Getting to know them means that they will get to know you, which will help you make a bigger impact on the company as a whole. 

Another way to get involved is by learning the ins-and-outs of the office. If you are able to use a majority of machines, or able to put together a presentation in the same format that the agency always uses, people will ask you to do this more often. By proving yourself as the smart and hardworking person you are, people will notice and rely on you to do more and more things.


Do you have any intern stories that you would like to share? Or any advice for all of the future interns out there? Feel free to share with us below.

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