Last summer I did an internship as a mechanical engineer at a design firm. It was a great experience and was actually really fun. I worked for them again over my winter break so I figured I would share some things that I learned.
1. Dress to impress
It is hard to know what to wear your first day of work because you don't know the atmosphere really well. My suggestion is to wear an outfit that is slightly overdressed for the first day. Then as you see the office that day take a look at other people you're working with, try to figure out what is appropriate. For example, at my internship my office is casual but stylish. So it is totally appropriate to wear jeans as long as they are clean and fit well. It is also important to realize what kind of environment you'll be working in. If you are going to be outside and walking a lot obviously wear comfortable clothes and shoes. If you are in a very formal business atmosphere then maybe it's appropriate to wear a suit. Talk to other people who have worked in the industry to see what is appropriate for your line of work. But remember you are an intern so you should probably step up your game because you don't have the job security that everyone else who is full time does have.
2. Put down your phone
I know it is hard to transition from college where you can be constantly texting, instagramming, tweeting, etc. but when you're at work you are supposed to be working, not playing on your phone. Even if you are in a casual office, I would at least try to limit your phone usage. You will most likely be working with people who are older and don't understand why we are so obsessed with our phones and I know they appreciate when you don't use your phone at work. Like I said before, you're an intern and don't have the job security of someone who is working full time so always air on the safe side.
3. Ask questions!
Youre an intern you aren't supposed to know everything. I was so intimidated when I first started working and I was scared that if I asked questions that they would think I was incompetent. This is not the case at all! Most places expect you to know almost nothing and they will be more than happy to help you with anything. They want you to succeed. But if you're going to ask a question make sure that you listen and really understand the answer you get because you shouldn't have to ask a second time.
4. Write everything down
At my internship I used a new program I had never used before. I caught on quick and by the end of summer I was more than proficient in it, but then I would leave and not be back to using the program for many months. What I did was write down every key stroke I knew and also wrote down how to do things that took me a while to learn in the beginning. When I came back this winter having that cheat sheet helped so much to jog my memory. Writing things down that you learn helps to reinforce the memory and also gives you a reference so you don't have to ask the same question again or waste time trying to learn something a second time.
5. Stay in touch
It is good to stay in touch with the people you worked with and hired you. They are contacts in the industry you may have for the rest of your life. Get their business cards. Send a follow up email once you're done your internship to say thank you and express what a valuable experience it was. It'll take 5 minutes and will be greatly appreciated.
I hope these are helpful tips! Leave any other advice you have in the comments :)
Natalie. 25. Mechanical engineer. Mining and Minerals Engineering graduate from Virginia Tech. I love pugs, pink, nail polish, crafting, feminism, makeup, and Netflix.