“On my first day of Jr. High I was in Geography class, and the teacher asked us if anybody knew the names of the continents. And I was sooo excited. I was like, Damnit! It’s my first day of 7th grade, Im in jr high and i know this answer. So i raised my hand I was the first one and I said A-E-I-O-U!” -Jessica Simpson
I’ve been having a lot of First Days lately. The nature of COLABORATORY was such that in the course of one six-week internship, I had essentially 4 First Days: One with each of the 3 agencies I visited: Pop Art, Ascentium and Grady Britton, and one with the intern agency I help create, Wet Paint. I also just started a new internship with the media buying office for RPA.
Not to toot my own horn or anything, but all these in such a short time period have led to a kind of First Day learning curve. This doesn’t mean I’ve mastered this process- far from it. Actually, I’ve found myself to be so consistently inept that I thought others may be able to benefit from my problems.
With this in mind, I’ve accumulated a few First Day Tips to help you make the most of it, and try to avoid the awkwardness that generally surrounds me on such days.
First Day Tip #1: Ask a lot of questions. I don’t mean questions like “where’s the bathroom?” or “so when do I get paid?” I mean the questions that show you’re paying attention and are interested enough to learn more. Plus, you only have a short period of time in which you can ask introductory questions of projects, people or processes. As time goes on, you will feel more timid about this because you’ll assume you should already know the answers. Welp, relish in the not knowing and ride out this golden age.
First Day Tip #2: Remember names. This seems simple, and for many of you it is. Not me. I have to actually remind myself every time I go in for the handshake that I should pay attention while the other person is introducing his or herself. I get so caught up in what I’m going to say that I forget to pay attention to what the other person has just said. My trick? Handy little diagrams. Because most offices have permanent seating arrangements and you more often than not see the person at this location, I find it easy to write a diagram of who sits where and then associate that name with the person in this way. Below is my example for The Office (which premieres this week and I’m so excited to have my favorite prime time shows back!):
A note of caution with this tip: Do not leave this lying around, it might seem like you’re plotting your escape route or something. Also, do NOT assign names with embarrassing or rude mnemonic devices- you will invariably slip up and use the nickname to the person’s face.
First Day Tip #3: Dress a little better than you expect to on an everyday basis. You can never be sure what the particular company culture demands when it comes to dress code, but as an intern you need to be a little extra formal in order to not appear totally wet behind the ears. It doesn’t matter that we’ve graduated from college and are supposed to be “adults”–in a professional workspace, we tend to look like babies.
First Day Tip #4: Do not bring lunch from home. This isn’t to say don’t eat, just be sure to ask around and see where other people go to eat, maybe tag along with some coworkers. Eating together can be a good way to get to know people, and get to know the area where you’ll be spending your 9-5 hours.
Overall, first days are really opportunities to make the right first impression and capitalize on that short period of time when expectations aren’t set and there is no such thing as a dumb question.
Given these tips, why do I still feel painfully awkward at this?
Because it’s human nature. I’m trying to get better.