July 11, 2012

How To Make A Good First Impression As An Intern: First Five Minutes

Psychologists, networking experts, career advisors, and your mother will all tell you that first impressions, formed in that crucial first 30 seconds, are hard to change. They might be right generally, but when it comes to setting yourself up for a positive internship experience I disagree. There's something unique about being an intern: everyone knows you are a student and no one expects you to be perfect. Honestly, that means the bar for your performance isn't always set very high. Some interns start out with mindless tasks simply because their boss isn't sure what to expect as far as a new intern's abilities go. In fact, I know someone whose boss was amazed that this person had alphabetized CDs correctly because previous interns hadn't been able to handle that (true story).  This may be frustrating, but it does mean you get more than just 30 seconds to make a good "first" impression. We'll be going over each "first" in the coming days to help you make the most of each time period and opportunity, but for now we're starting with the first five minutes.

First Five Minutes
This truly is that "first impression" you automatically think of when you hear the phrase. This is all about how you dress, greet people, walk, and talk. It isn't about showing off your skills or dedication just yet (though that is important later). Right now, it is about showing that you are capable of being mature, friendly, professional, and put-together. You want to leave the impression that you are someone who can be trusted and someone who knows how to handle themselves in a business environment.

You should dress somewhat formally on your first day, even if you know the office will be full of jeans and t-shirts, to convey your professionalism and the respect you have for the company and opportunity. You do not necessarily need a suit in a casual environment but business casual is usually a good choice. For women: a nice blouse, dress pants, professional-looking hair and makeup, and flats are heels are appropriate. For men: loafers of similar shoes, black socks, dress pants, and a dress shirt or polo is a good option.

Stand talk and try to carry yourself with confidence. This is definitely easier said than done when you are understandable nervous, but remember that if you got the internship they saw something great in you. They picked you out of all of their applicants for a reason so you have no reason to worry. Just don't forget to smile.


You probably hear all about handshakes and how firm they should be or how long or whatever else. But let's be honest, that guy who stares you down, squeezes your hand till it hurts, and pumps your arm up and down like he's a politician waiting for a photo-op probably doesn't portray the kind of message you are hoping for (unless maybe what you are going for is get me away from this guy?). The best greetings and handshakes in the casual world of entertainment tend to be friendly and confident. Don't be afraid to be yourself. Or at least a slightly more outgoing and confident version of yourself if needed for the moment. You, after all, are who they hired.

Small Talk
The first five minutes in the office when you meet the other employees and get situated at your desk tends to mostly involve small talk. So rather than tell you what to say, let's just stick with what you should avoid. Avoid any controversial topics like religion, politics, or even why you think the Red Sox are better than your boss's favorite, the Yankees. Don't go all fangirl or boy on them and gush over your love for whatever platinum record is hanging in the reception area (this is not really the time or place). Don't try to show off how much you know by throwing in a comment about your related experience every chance you get. The interview was for selling yourself, at this point actions really do speak louder than words. That said, you should be willing to speak up if an opportunity presents itself based on your previous knowledge. For instance, let's say you know how to use Soundscan and your boss is looking for someone to help him pull reports. Don't be afraid to say that you have experience with it. Or, if you get introduced to the company's radio promoter and that is something that interests you, speak up.

The first few minutes of a new internship can be nerve-wracking and overwhelming. Try you best to dress well, walk talk, be friendly, enthusiastic, and professional and you should leave a good first impression.

What tips do you have for making a good first impression and dealing with nerves?

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