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How to Assimilate to the Corporate Culture at Your Internship

Fri, Mar 9, 2012

Internship Information

When it comes to landing an internship, one of the worst things that anyone can do is process it as if they are simply volunteering at a company for a few months. While you may or may not be earning a salary, and while you probably applied for the internship so that you could receive college credit, that doesn’t mean that you’re not considered a (temporary) employee of the company. Human resources has you on file, there is work that you’ll be doing that will directly affect the business one way or another, and based on your performance (and the company’s needs), you might end up being offered a full-time position following your college graduation.

Yes, your internship is a pretty big deal and as both you and your employer are getting a feel for if you’re mutually the right fit, it’s a good idea to absorb as much of the company’s corporate culture as you can.

What Is Corporate Culture?

If you were traveling abroad, you might have taken the time to review how the people in that particular country dresses, communicates and even eats. In the corporate culture world, the comparisons are pretty similar. “Corporate culture” is simply a term that speaks to getting to know the company’s mission, policies and rules of operation. When it comes to attire, it’s a wise to research if the dress code is, for instance, business or business casual. When it comes to communication, you may want to inquire about what is the appropriate protocol when it comes to who you directly report to, turn in your time with, etc. And eating? Well, some companies may encourage eating on-site, while others may give an hour for lunch. Of course, these are just some examples, but the bottom line is that a company’s culture basically speaks to the standards that they, as a business, professionally uphold.

How Do You Become a Part of the Culture?

Once you’ve officially been offered your internship, it’s time to do a bit of research on how the company operates internally. One of the quickest and most effective ways that you can do this is by contacting your reporting supervisor about getting a copy of the company’s policy handbook. Initially, it may feel so overwhelming that you’ll wish that you got a Masters degree in education online, but don’t let all of the reading stress you out. No one is expecting you to know everything overnight. A handbook just provides you with some of the information that you might not get a chance to thoroughly discuss before you start your internship. Of course, while reading is beneficial, you’ll learn even more simply by observing. Watch how the employees around you operate and when it comes to any questions or concerns that you might have, don’t hesitate to ask. You’re an intern and so people know that you’re there to learn. But more than anything, be open to adjusting to the way things already function rather than presumptuously coming in with your ideas of how you think the company, on any level, should go. If you’ve ever traveled overseas and spoken with a native from a particular country, you might have heard that one of the most insulting things that can happen is to have someone come to visit and be rude by not respecting the way of life that already existed before they arrived. This can apply to corporate culture too.

How Do You Excel in the Culture?

Remember that when it comes to your internship, while you’re there to learn about the company, you’re also there to work for them. One of the best things that you can do to express that you understand the standards of any company is to be a responsible employee. Show up to work on time, do the assignments that are given, respect the people working around you, offer to do any extra things that you are capable of and in no time, you won’t just be seen as the semester intern, but a valuable member of the corporate team!

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