5 To-Do's Before You Start Your Internship | The Washington Center

5 To-Do's Before You Start Your Internship

Maybe you didn’t think past the interview for your internship, until you realized the day before you start that well, you’re starting tomorrow. Or, maybe you're the type of person who researched every single thing you could find about the organization you’ll be working for, including three other ways to get to work in case the Metro broke down. Whichever type of person you are, here are some basic things you should do before you arrive at your internship site for a semester’s worth of learning and experiencing.


1. Research Your Organization

This seems like an obvious one, but instead of learning what year the organization was founded, you should keep three questions in mind:


1) What is the purpose of this organization?

2) Who are the executives of this organization?

3) How does this organization fit into the world of politics?


As I mentioned in my previous blog, D.C. is an incredibly political city—politics will find its way into your workplace somehow. Try to spot it before you get there.


2. Dress Code

Again, it seems obvious, but you would be surprised how many people miss it. Always dress a peg more professionally on your first day. If they say to come wearing business casual, it doesn’t hurt to dress closer to business professional. If you didn’t hear anything about the dress code, the default is business professional. It’s hard to make a bad impression by overdressing, whereas it is easy to make a bad impression by underdressing.


Courtesy of ERG


3. Be Informed

Ah, here’s one that’s not so obvious. The less time you spend adjusting to the new office, the more you’re going to be able to do, learn and experience. That includes knowing the jargon and lingo used in your specific field. Try to understand the structure of the organization, how other organizations work and other organizations that are in the same field as you. It’s always impressive when an intern knows who the company’s partner or rival firm is on the first day.


But also be informed on political issues. If you’re ever engaged in a political discussion with other interns, associates or executives, it’s always good to have some political knowledge. Note that you should be informed, not biased. Be knowledgeable about what’s going on in the country and in the world. Be able to talk about some of the key issues facing your city, state or country. Show that you’re a world citizen.


4. Be Professional

If you don’t feel comfortable writing a formal email in less than ten minutes, now’s your time to learn. Depending on your internship, you’re going to have to get used to writing formal emails—fast. Google “how to write a formal email" or ask your friends for advice. Whatever it is, learn how to be comfortable writing formal emails, and learn it soon.


Also learn how to speak professionally. The workplace is not the same as having conversations with your friends. And it’s very different from an academic environment.


5. “The Intern is Coming...The Intern is Coming!”

Last but not least, notify them that you’re coming. In fact, let them know when you arrive in D.C. and reconfirm your start date, time and the office address. Ask them if there is anything you need to bring with you (like your laptop).


Prepare to bring all necessary documents for your home institution, for The Washington Center and anything for your or the organization’s personal records.


Last but not least, good luck! You’ve come so far; you’ll be ready for a great semester!

Read Jenny's previous blog posts

Experience a Day in the Life of an Intern at The Washington Center

Learn More