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Ask the intern: How to master workplace etiquette

“Hi there, I’ve just arrived in Madrid and I’m about to start my internship. This will be my first time working in a professional workplace and I’m not sure what to expect. Do you have any advice on how to behave at work? I’d appreciate it!” – Edward



Hi Edward. Firstly, congratulations on getting your internship and arriving in Madrid! I often feel a mix of excitement and nerves on my first day at work. It can be hard to get a feel for things, especially since this is an international internship and you have not yet been to the office or met your colleagues in person. An internship abroad challenges you to step out of your comfort zone and make the most of your time in the workplace. While you want to enjoy yourself as much as possible, there are a few basic office etiquette rules by which to abide. Here are a few of my top tips on how to behave at work.


Dress appropriately

This is crucial, especially on your first day at work. Your appearance will reflect you as a person to your colleagues, so make sure you are dressed smartly and professionally if you want to be taken seriously. This will demonstrate that you are competent and ready to work hard. Most offices have rules on what to wear, so be sure to check with the company about this before you arrive. We also provide you with a very helpful Welcome Pack which contains useful information about what to wear to work. Of course you should wear what you feel comfortable in, but I would suggest that it is best to err on the smart side; don’t rock up in a t-shirt and sweatpants.


how to behave at work


Be punctual

As with interviews, make sure that you turn up to the office on time. Give yourself enough time to arrive, and ask The Intern Group where your workplace is located if you are ensure. Just as with your appearance, your punctuality is one of the first things that your colleagues will notice about you. If you turn up late it shows that you are not able to manage your time and are not committed enough to your internship. If you do find yourself running late, be sure to call or email to warn the office in advance.


Introduce yourself

You will no doubt be shown around the office on your first day and introduced to your fellow colleagues and interns. Follow their lead as you greet them; you can shake their hand or give them a kiss on the cheek. If you have not been introduced to everyone, take initiative and do it yourself. Your colleagues will appreciate the gesture and will be happy to see that you are excited to work with them. You can always strike up a conversation by asking for their advice on the job and enquiring more about what they do. This friendliness will pay off and you will soon become part of the team and not just an intern that keeps to him/herself.


Establish a relationship with your co-workers

As I mentioned in my blog post about settling into a new country (link), make an effort to befriend your colleagues. They are great sources of advice not only about work but also things to do in the city. Your colleagues will make an effort to include you in work activities such as team lunches, after work drinks or simply chatting in the common area, so make sure you return the effort! Participating in work activities will help you get to know your colleagues in a less formal environment; you will soon find that your internship is more enjoyable and enriching if you get on well with the people you work with. Having a strong bond with your colleagues will make you feel more comfortable in asking questions and expressing yourself, thus meaning that the workplace will become a trusting environment.


how to behave at work


Keep your personal life away from the workplace

While it is great to befriend your colleagues, this friendship should still remain professional. After all, you are in a workplace and need to separate your personal life and work life. Maintain professional behavior, and when meeting for dinner for example, remember to act in the same way you would, were you in the office. In addition, don’t spend your time on your personal social media chatting to your friends at home, as the office is not the place to do this! This can demonstrate that you are not interested in your internship, and you will be wasting your colleagues’ time.


Send thank you notes when you leave

An international internship is a mutually beneficial relationship. Both you and your colleagues can learn a lot from one another, culturally and professionally. While you have made valuable contributions to the company, your colleagues will have made an effort to ensure that you are settling well into the workplace, and to keep you stimulated and challenged during your internship. So when you leave, it is always thoughtful to demonstrate your gratitude by leaving a nice thank you note or gift. This is a nice way for the company to remember you, and they will equally appreciate it.



If you are enjoying yourself, express it! As I mentioned above, small gestures go a long way, and your colleagues will be happy to see that you appreciate your internship. Greeting everyone with a smile in the morning is a great way to start the day, and your colleagues will welcome your friendly attitude.
Of course, every office is different and workplace etiquette will vary slightly from company to company, but if you remain professional and make an effort to get to know your colleagues, you are guaranteed to enjoy your experience.


I love hearing from you! If you need any advice or tips, write to me at: [email protected]


Source: Business Insider

Photo 1. based on The Office, by three6ohchris, CC-by-2.0.

Photo 2. by The Intern Group.

Photo 3. by The Intern Group.

Photos and blog by Laetitia Nappert-Rosales

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The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!