After completing one internship and one co-op, I thought starting my second co-op would be smooth sailing. Wrong. I left after my first day feeling like my brain was melting out my ears, and wondering if I’d committed a laundry list of embarrassing office social mistakes. Nonetheless, I’ve accumulated at least some knowledge in my time in the working world, and so I give you: A list of dos and don’ts for starting your co-op or internship.
DO: Ask the stupid questions early. Everyone wants to look cool and knowledgeable when starting a new job, but it’s a lot less embarrassing to ask questions now, when nobody expects you to know anything, than it is to be that kid who still doesn’t know which printer to use in May.
DON’T: Ask your supervisor every little thing you’re unsure of. It can be hard to remember that your boss has millions of things to do other than telling you how to do your job, but it’s true. Ask questions when they really matter, but don’t bug him or her every 10 seconds. Google is on your computer for a reason.
DO: Be cautious at first. There are written rules of a job, and there are unwritten rules. For example, you may be told you have an hour-long lunch, but if nobody in the office takes more than 30 minutes and you have a stack of work on your desk, waltzing out the door for an hour probably isn’t in your performance review’s best interests. See also: Eating food in the fridge, swearing, dress code, texting, leaving early, etc.
DON’T: Be a wallflower. Being cautious at first doesn’t mean you have to a mute. This company hired you for a reason: They don’t think you’re totally incompetent. Speaking up when you have an idea and sharing your perspective will make you more likeable and more valuable to the business.
DO: Make friends with the other co-ops. If you’re lucky enough to work in an office with other co-ops or interns, take full advantage of that fact and actually talk to them. Best-case scenario, you make a new friend. Worst-case scenario, you don’t hate the person you’re spending 40 hours a week with—unless they’re a huge jerk, in which case we can’t help you.
DON’T: Be intimidated by your boss/co-workers. Believe it or not, they probably have at least a vague interest in getting to know you. Being on friendly terms with your direct co-workers will make work seem exponentially more enjoyable for you, not to mention that it will up your chances of staying on part- or full-time when your co-op is done.
DO: Accept that you won’t know what the hell is going on for at least three weeks. It’s natural. No one expects you to know. And you can always drown your sorrows in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s when 5 p.m. hits.
Jamie is a third year journalism major and English minor at Northeastern, and the editor-in-chief of Woof Magazine. In the past, she has written for Boston magazine, New Hampshire magazine and the Huntington News. Interests include reading magazines, brunching, watching Chopped, sale section stalking at Madewell and having an inappropriate enthusiasm for DMX and power ballads.