Landing an internship is often the first step in entering the world of work, and in building your career. Your time as an intern gives you the opportunity to make the right impression, build the right relationships, and gain the necessary skills. Once you have completed your N6 course and are about to do your internship to earn your diploma, for example, there are a few things you need to be aware of.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate the work environment when you start out as an intern:

1. Conduct yourself in a professional manner

Conducting yourself in a professional manner is about self-awareness. You have to be mindful of how you interact with fellow employees and with your bosses. How others perceive you can have a huge impact on your career. Here are a few don’ts to help you out:

  • Don’t use swear words and foul language when communicating in the workplace. Not only can this make you sound immature and unintelligent, but it can also make co-workers uncomfortable.
  • Don’t take things that don’t belong to you. It goes without saying, but it’s unacceptable to help yourself to your co-workers’ lunch, or to take office stationery home for personal use. In the workplace, this may be regarded as theft, and could have serious consequences.
  • Don’t get involved in office gossip. It will only land you in trouble and in the bad books of those you want to impress.
  • Don’t make suggestive comments, use racist language, or make inappropriate jokes. You will come across as someone who cannot work with other people, and you may even face disciplinary action.
  • Don’t take long personal calls at work. Keep them short, and try to take the important calls only.

2. Dress the part for work

Many companies have dress codes that you are expected to follow. If your employer hasn’t informed you about the company’s dress code, then it’s best to ask. Apart from following the dress code, the most important thing to remember is that you always need to look neat and tidy. Here are a few tips to help you look the part:

  •  Avoid looking sloppy by ensuring that your clothes are always ironed, that your shirt is tucked in, and that your hair is neatly styled and clean.
  • If there is a formal business dress code, you can’t go wrong with the conservative suit.
  • For casual days at work, wait to see how casual everyone else dresses, or ask HR about what would be considered appropriate.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing and clothes that are too revealing. This type of clothing can reflect badly on you and can create the wrong impression.

Not sure how you’re going to afford a professional wardrobe on an intern’s salary? Read: How to Dress for Success on a Small Budget

3. Show an eagerness to learn

As an intern, you are there to learn, to gain skills, and to make the right connections for your future. It is therefore important that you put your best foot forward. Here are some tips to help you make a good impression:

  • Show that you are interested in learning by asking questions, offering assistance, and giving input where you can. This lets everyone know that you are interested in the work you are doing, and that you are worth their time.
  • Communicate clearly and professionally. Find out what the preferred tools and methods of communication are, and learn how to use them effectively. And no matter how you communicate, always pay attention to your grammar and your word choice.
  • Be friendly and build relationships with people in the office you are working in, but be mindful of boundaries.
  • If you are tasked with something and you don’t know how to do it, ask for help, and always take notes so that you have something to refer to should you get stuck.
  • Be open to constructive criticism, and learn from it.

Also read: How to Make the Most of Your Internship

It is not easy to come into a work environment as an intern. You want to ensure that the people you will be learning from take you seriously and know that you take the opportunity seriously too. You are not expected to know everything as an intern, so ensure that you ask when you don’t know. Take the lead from co-workers and always be open to being taught. The impression you make as an intern could lead to many beneficial connections for your future.