First Day on the Job: How to Make Your First Day a GREAT Day

first day on the job tips

2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on how to make your first day on the job a great day— links have also been updated below.

With interns everywhere starting soon (to say nothing of college graduates), I thought we should have an open thread about what your best advice is for the first day on the job (and, hey, your first week!). We’ve talked about how to build a wardrobe for your summer internship (as well as no-duh tips in general for your summer internship); we’ve also talked about how to avoid acting young, and how to look professional without looking like you think you’re in charge — but I don’t think we’ve talked, specifically, about first day tips.  For my $.02, these are some of my top tips:

Before the First Day

  • Read the company’s website, particularly if they have a “Press” section.  Consider Googling further to learn more than just what’s in the press release on their website.
  • Google your company to see if it’s been in the news or mentioned otherwise.  If you haven’t already set up a Google Alert, do it now.
  • Research your liaison.  If you have the name of your contact or liaison, search for their name on the company website.  You may find mentions in press releases or a bio, but for smaller companies you may just find a listing of responsibilities.  You may also consider checking out their LinkedIn or even their Facebook page.  There is, of course, a fine line between being creepy and being well prepared, so be smart about what you ask him or her about at your first meeting.  Fair game:  responsibilities at the job, career path, school background.  Getting creepy: your making any comments about kids, significant others, or recent vacations the person may have posted about on Facebook.

First Day Tips

  • Look as professional as you did on the job interview. Don’t worry about wowing them with a new dress, or about “boring” them by repeating a suit — your clothes should be a non-issue the first day. Depending on where you work you may also want to be prepared to take a corporate headshot, either for the company website or for an informal “meet the interns!” memo that is often passed around.  You may want to check out some of our previous what not to wear to work lists, if only to avoid wearing something eyebrow-raising on the first day.  Briefly, you may want to avoid: cleavage of ANY kind, bare legs, open-toed shoes (this includes peep toes), or wearing a sleeveless dress with nothing covering your arms (such as sleeves, a blazer, or a cardigan).
  • Show up early. This is one of those situations where if you’re on time, you’re late. If you get there super early, sit in a nearby coffee shop until about 10 minutes prior to start time, and then go in.
  • What to bring: A notebook and a pen.  Your ID(s) — bring your passport if you have it handy — as well as a blank check (often asked for for direct deposit).  I’d also bring a few paper copies of your resume, particularly if anything “new” has happened since you interviewed (you published a paper, you got on a great journal, you won an election in one of your activities) — you may meet a liaison or other superior who will guide you through the internship, and it never hurts to hand them an updated copy of your resume and point out the new things. You may also want to consider bringing lunch for yourself, or at least a snack.
  • What not to bring:  Anything that might slow you down if there is unexpected security in the building (e.g., a Swiss Army knife on your keychain); a box of stuff to decorate your work area (save it for later in the week if you do want to decorate your space).
  • Prepare to spend a lot of time doing administrative stuff.  Paperwork!  Computer setup! Email setup!  Voicemail setup! This may be the bulk of your first day.  Don’t presume you’re going to immediately have access to a computer and printer as soon as you get to work.
  • Repeat people’s names.  Whether you’re meeting two people or twenty people, this tip always helps — remember people’s names by repeating their names back to them as soon as they say it.  “I’m Bob, I’ll be your mentor this summer.” “Hi Bob, I’m Kat.”
  • Take notes.  Take notes in meetings, whether it’s a presentation by the HR department or a new work assignment.  Take notes after meetings (who you met, impressions, future items to look into).  You may even want to take notes beFORE meetings if you’re given advance notice of anything.  For example, let’s say at 11:40 you’re told to come to a meeting at noon about [a case, a project, a company, a client, etc.] You have twenty minutes to research whatever the meeting is about — get a feel for what it is already, as well as any questions you may have about it.  Call me an old-timer, but for my money the only way to take notes in any meeting (or refer to notes) is on paper — most superiors will think you’re checking your texts or emails if you’re glancing at your phone or typing on your phone during a meeting.

First Week Tips

  • Keep your personal social calendar as clear as you can during the first week.  This can help in two ways…  A) You may need more time to decompress than usual this week — personally, meeting new people always tuckers me out.  B) It leaves you free to partake in social opportunities that may arise at work — you don’t want to miss an impromptu cocktail hour (and the networking opportunities therein) because you have to be somewhere else.
  • Email people in the company you want to work with, very briefly.  “Hi, my name is Kat; I’m a new intern this summer.  I’m fascinated by [Your Specialty Here]; I’ve attached a recent resume.  Do you have any projects right now that you need a hand with? I’d love to help any way I can.”  If they say no (or something vague like “Ill keep you in mind!”), ask them to lunch and tell them you’d love to hear about their career/job in general.
  • Introduce yourself to your neighbors, if they haven’t introduced themselves to you.  If you can, do a bit of research on who they are and what they do; that will help you say something like,  “Hi, I’m the new intern; I’ll be sitting in Room __.  I understand you’re in charge of ____?  I’d love to hear more about that or help you if I can.”  If you don’t really know what you want to do at the company/firm, this is a great place to start.
  • Bring some stuff into your office/desk.  Again, this is not first day stuff, but things that I think are acceptable for the first week: a tissue box, a colorful calendar or something else, a blazer to keep at the office, and a basic pair of pumps to keep at the office; perhaps even a few shelf-stable snacks like granola bars or an oatmeal packet.  Depending on where you work and what your job entails, I would also consider bringing a pair of glasses if you wear contacts, as well as a pair of sneakers and socks.  (The sneaker/sock suggestion is, perhaps, a weird one, but I’ve heard so many stories of women being forced to walk home in uncomfortable heels (particularly on Wall Street — after 9/11, after blackouts, etc.) that this piece of advice is firmly burned in my memory.  Plus, hey: maybe you can make it to a workout class near the office, or walk home some night just for fun.)

Readers, what are your tips for a great first day/first week?  What mistakes have you seen interns make that could be avoided? What are YOUR best first day on the job tips?

(Pictured at top: Be Prepared, originally uploaded to Flickr by Calsidyrose.)

Picture below via Stencil.


  1. All good tips!

    I disagree slightly on emailing people in the company during your first week. I think perhaps after a few weeks and you get a grasp of your own job first, that’s fine. But you can definitely seem too eager (read: annoying) if you haven’t even mastered your own job before taking on additional work. In addition, your supervisor will likely want to know if you are taking on work from other folks.

    • I agree…. You want to look smart, but NOT to annoying. My firm does NOT even have a websight, and onley a few peeople have INTERNET ID’s. The manageing partner has an e-mail address, but he does NOT use it and he does NOT even have a computer on his desk. He relie’s on LYNN to monitor his e-mail and to respond to any that come in for him.

      I have my own E-mail b/c I am alway’s sending in breif’s to the Court and I communiceate alot with OPPOSEING counsel. I think that when we get new space, it will be wired for INTERNET, but for now we ONLY have DSL, which is SLOW. FOOEY. I have better conecteievity at home with my MacBook Air and Wireless ROOTER. Mabye we can have a WIRELESS ROOTER at the new office so I can use my MacBook Air without pluggeing in here. DOUBEL FOOEY for now!

    • Agree with this! I know that I would definitely read that as eager/annoying if I got an email like that the first week.

      Also, I love the tip about bringing sneakers and socks. I’ve started doing that, and I love that I can just put them on and take a walk at lunch!

    • I agree with this. During that first week or two, wait to see what the culture is for how work is assigned, who you are expected to work with, etc. Your company might have already lined up some matters that you’ll be staffed on, so you should see what those expectations are before you go branching out seeking new work on your own. Also — it will give you a chance to read people’s personalities (and hear about their reputations from others) before volunteering to work with them!

      • Yes – we’ve had our summer associates for a week now and the gunners are already in full gunning mode. Current associates are not impressed and we talk about you when you leave our office. Yup we do.

    • Yes – In my workplace, this would be bad advice. Many supervisors/Directors/heads of Depts here prefer that all work to subordinates be filtered through them – both to protect the employee from being taken advantage of and to protect the supervisor’s use of the employee’s time.

  2. Related to the idea of keeping your social calendar clear, don’t try to start a new diet on Day 1 of your new job/internship. I’m as much of a “fresh start” person as the next, but keep your options open for going to lunches with new co-workers, mentors, etc.

    • Cornellian :

      Agree. I’m fine with going somewhere kosher or vegan or whatever for lunch, but let me know beforehand.

  3. To Deep End :

    I was just catching up on Friday’s threads and read about your driving experience. So sorry and hope you are feeling better.

    As a PSA for you (and other ‘r e t t e s who drive), if your car has automatic locks, then I suggest (and do) the following – when you approach your car, you unlock the driver’s side door ONLY. As soon as you physically open the door, you hit the “lock” button on the remote. This way, as soon as you get inside and close the door, the car is already locked. And if someone starts to yell at you or run at you from across the parking lot, you can jump inside and your door is already locked.

    Have a kid? Same rules apply. Unlock all doors, open the door to put them in the carseat, and immediately lock all doors before you get the kid situated (putting key somewhere secure where you can’t lock it in the car by mistake – your pocket or tucked into your waistband). This way, when you close the door and walk around to the driver’s side door, no one can open the kid’s door and snatch the kid. When you get to the driver’s side door, repeat process from above.

    It seems like a lot when you read it out, but it takes 2 seconds and becomes second nature in about a week.

    • I had a car that would set off the alarm if you locked the door while the door was open before the key was in the ignition. I like your tips, though, and I do not think my current car has that quirk.

      • To Deep End :

        Thanks. For your old car’s situation, I recommend that you hold your keys in your right hand when you enter your car, so that as soon as you pull the door closed with your left hand, you can hit the “lock” button on the remote with your right. Long story short – the quicker you can make your car into a secure zone, the better.

    • Thank you! I think this is a very good idea.

  4. Midwest Transplant :

    I’d like to emphasis the take notes advice. You will be meeting a large number of new people and it is always helpful to start writing down names and perhaps positions or departments so you can remember them the next day. Also, if your supervisor is telling you information about responsibilities or if you get pulled into a client meeting (sometimes I do this to expose my interns to experience), taking down notes makes you look like an active listener. I would then expect my intern or new hire to ask me questions after the meeting about topics that came up that they don’t understand or even “next steps” they might be able to handle.

    • I write down all the stuff I will forget in a notebook. Not “notes” per se, but definitely notes to self. For example, “HR person is on 5th floor, Sally, secterary: Jenny; code for X is ***, bathrooms are …, library is located —-, dial 7 to dial out, etc., etc.”

  5. Showing up ten minutes early is okay, but most people will not ding you for being on time. In fact, people may not be prepared for you if you arrive before they expected you, so I wouldn’t be too compulsive about walking in the door extra early.

    • Yeah, more than 10 minutes makes me annoyed. I had an intern who showed up really early every morning and loitered outside my door. Instead of being impressed, it just made me feel like I was late.

  6. +1000 on being prepared for meetings. No one expects you to be an expert, but there are lightyears between the intern who shows up at a meeting knowing nothing and expecting to be spoon-fed and the intern who does a quick skim of the topic, thinks briefly about why this meeting/topic might be important, and asks thoughtful questions after the meeting that display an understanding of how the meeting fits in with the overall project/firm/etc. Bonus points for connecting that to broader topics (e.g., how pending legislation might impact a client’s case). No knocks on the first intern — that was totally me and it takes a mental adjustment to go from school to being a professional out in the world — but the intern who actively looks for information and makes mental connections really radiates intelligence and competence in a way that stands out.

  7. Long question about a personal issue, maybe someone can give me some perspective on this.
    Long story short: two years ago I found out via Facebook that my high school/college boyfriend (we dated for five years, were engaged for about six months at the end of that time) had killed himself. He had a long history of substance abuse that had started when we were still together and intentionally overdosed after an intervention by his family (he left a note). I had not had any contact with him in 15 years, but he was my first love, you know how that goes, and so I was affected by his death and felt grief. My relationship with my ex had ended badly – I gave him an ultimatum about going to rehab, and when he refused, cut off all contact pretty abruptly, and then got married three years later to my husband. I had heard through the grapevine, even years later, that the breakup had “devastated” my ex and that he blamed a lot of his ongoing substance abuse on me “abandoning” him. I will confess, I still have some guilt about the way I handled the breakup and a lot of sadness at how my ex’s life turned out, but I don’t have any regrets about ending the relationship and moving on with my life. It had to happen the way it did, for all kinds of reasons.

    A few days ago, one of my old friends brought to my attention that in the open memorial group for my ex on Facebook, there were some ongoing discussions between my ex’s brother and my ex’s friends that referenced me and the relationship obliquely (my name isn’t mentioned, but it’s obvious who they’re referencing), but were pretty disturbing in that they contained a lot of epithets hurled at me and also some veiled threats (“if I ever see her again,” etc.). I am sad that even though fifteen years had passed between the breakup and my ex’s death, I’m still getting blamed for his problems, but whatever. Unfortunately, my friend (and all our friends she told) and my husband (who saw the page) are very freaked out and are encouraging me to, at minimum, report the group to Facebook and possibly call the police. I don’t want to do either. I have an idea in my head that if I opened up a line of communication with my ex’s brother and allowed him to vent or ask me questions or whatever, maybe that would give him an outlet for his feelings and he would be able to move on, and also, he would understand that people can see what he’s posting as the group is public. Part of it is that I know a lot about the dynamics of my ex’s family – he had one of those families where men weren’t really allowed to express emotions aside from anger – and I also have a lot of fond memories of my ex’s brother, who was a great kid back in the day. He’s been through a lot, and I don’t want to add to his problems. Do you think me contacting the brother would help at all? Should I report this to the authorities? Or should I just blow this off and pretend like I didn’t see the page? Part of it, I have to confess, is that I don’t want any blowback of any kind affecting my professional career or life as it is now. I’d like to handle this, if I have to handle it at all, involving as few other people as possible.

    • Do you think me contacting the brother would help at all?

      – No, I don’t. I think he is upset, but I don’t think there is anything that you could say or do to “fix” this for him. He wants to blame his brother’s death and substance abuse on someone, and you were the easy target. That sucks, but I literally can’t think of a single thing that you could do now to change his mind.

      Should I report this to the authorities?
      – Do you live close to them? Is there a real possibility that Crazy Brother will see you at the post office or grocery store? If not, no. But stay vigilent.

      Or should I just blow this off and pretend like I didn’t see the page?
      – Yes. This.

      • Anonymous :

        Agree with the above, unless said page pops up when you google your name. THAT would have lasting effects on your professional life and you’d need to take action to rectify that so your name is not publicly dragged through the mud. But based on what you said, your name was never written and only mentioned through innuendo, so I’d say just stay out of it as you have given the fact you have been out of the picture for so long.

        • Nope, page is not coming up when I Google my name and I am not mentioned/tagged at all, that I can see. I agree I should take some action if/when that happens.

      • – I also don’t know what I could say to change his mind. I think I’m letting my empathy overcome my good judgment.
        – Brother does not live close to me but does live in a town where I travel for work sometimes. There’s extended family up here but not close – I never met them when my ex and I were together, and his family was very into family activities.
        – I’m going to try to just pretend I didn’t see the page. It’s difficult but I have to try. The worst part for me, ironically, wasn’t the threats but all the song lyrics and music videos people had posted. Including “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones. Oof.

    • Anonymous :

      I have no advice re: how to deal with the crazy brother, but I just wanted to say that I’m so sorry this happened and I know how difficult it is. I had an ex-boyfriend commit suicide about a year after we broke up. It is devastating, and hard enough to deal with without these bizarre FB allegations you have to deal with. Hugs.

      • Anonymous :

        Agree 100% with Anon at 2:42p.m. Sorry you’re having to deal with this.

        • Thanks to you both. I am sorry anyone has to go through this. In my case, it had been so long since we broke up, I was really unprepared for the unresolved anger and grief I felt when my ex died. This isn’t helping.

    • Anon for this :

      Website keeps crashing. I had a long response. Short version, I was in a similar relationship though my ex just threatened/attempted suicide and never completed. Friends from home that didn’t move on still see me as the evil bad person. They don’t know why I had to end that toxic relationship. 15 years later I had to go to a mutual friend’s funeral. My husband couldn’t understand why it was going to be awkward to be around those people. He couldn’t imagine people holding 15 year grudges. It is a world you have to have lived to understand. Chin up. If you have moved away, try to avoid contact with them as much as possible, online and in real life.

      • Thanks so much for your reply. I have moved away and I honestly thought I would never see/hear from any of these people again, but thanks to Facebook they’re as close as my computer. :( My case is similar in that back in the day, my ex was REALLY good at hiding his addiction and I was the only one who really understood how bad it was (and got the brunt of the abusive behavior from him as a result of it). People think that his problem didn’t get really bad until after I broke up with him, but actually, it was pretty bad the last year or so of our relationship. One of the things I am actually proudest of in my life is that I didn’t repeat the pattern so many women in my family had created and stay with my ex to try to fix him. I had seen what my female relatives went through, being married to addicts, and knew I had to get out. I had no idea when I left him that he would never be able to get help or pull himself together and that he would die having never married, never had children, broke, jobless, living at home, etc. Somehow his friends and brother are acting like that was my fault, but we broke up when he was 26 and he had ample opportunity to move on with his life. Sigh. I am just venting now and I appreciate having this space to vent in. Big, huge thanks to everyone for their support. I truly appreciate it.

        • saacnmama :

          Good for you on figuring out how to do your life differently than role models in your family! I hope your husband is able to give you emotional support through this. Good luck to you.

    • I think you should report the threats to the authorities. Threats are threats and should be taken seriously.

  8. Arlington VA accountant :

    Can anyone recommend an accountant in/near Arlington VA who can assist with a non-resident income tax return relating to a rental house in Arlington? I figure that there has to be someone who is very used to this given the # of friends of mine who used tolive in rentals owned by someone military or state department who is now stationed elsewhere. THANKS!

  9. No peeptoes? In the summer? In D.C.? Umkay… :-)

    • For the first day on the job? Nope. Then it becomes a know your office decision.

    • I would say esp. in DC, which is considered an old white guy town (case in point, look at the Members of Congress). You have no idea who you are going to meet and what their impression of you is going to be when they see peeptoe shoes.

    • Honestly, that tiny cut out for 1 or 2 toes really cools off your feet that much? That sounds silly. Also, see suggestion re: no bare legs. Not exactly compatible with peep-toes, anyway.

  10. “I understand you’re in charge of ____ ” is a statement, not a question.

    I understand you’re in charge of _____.

    Are you in charge of ______?

    Don’t be the person who ends statements with question marks, especially when making a first impression.

  11. I’d love some advice on the flipside of this – how can I make sure my summer interns feel welcome when they arrive this week?

    • I have a few suggestions, based on feeling awkward on the first day of my professional internship:

      – Think through your schedule for the day and make up an itinerary for them. It doesn’t have to be written, just something you can rattle off so they know you were prepared for them.
      – If they do have to go through the whole paperwork process, pull the forms in advance or call down to HR so they know you are coming and will be there when you bring the interns by.
      – Ditto IT – make some arrangement to have computers there
      – Greet them first thing and if you do have a lot of meetings or something, explain that.
      – Take them out to lunch and notify them of the time you’ll “pick them up” in the morning, well before lunchtime.
      – Take them around the floor yourself and introduce them to everyone, including the higher ups if they are around. Chances are the interns are excited to meet new influential people and they will have a better chance of making a connection if they are introduced early on, as this shows you acknowledge they have value to the firm (rather than just being “kids” there to make copies all summer, etc.).
      – Take a moment to talk to them about what their assignments will be and when they can expect to get going on them/ things to research in the meanwhile.
      – Walk them through the mundane but important details. I.e., here are the bathrooms, this is the fire drill protocol, this is the lunchroom, here is the copier, here are the office supplies.
      – If some of these items are too far below your pay grade at least greet them, walk them around, and take them to lunch.

    • When I was an intern a few years ago I had a great mentor/manager set.
      – Introduce everyone on the team and explain their role even if the intern won’t be working with them.
      – Explain the differences between your team and others (especially helpful if the work is similar, but not the same)
      – Include the intern in meetings even if they aren’t doing work related to the meeting. It helps them feel like part of the team and is a good learning experience. Obviously not every meeting, but enough to get a good sense of the other responsibilities.
      – Have a catch up chat after meetings for the first couple weeks. I often had so many questions that were very basic and I didn’t want to waste the time of managers. It was great to be able to talk about background, acronyms, and reasoning without feeling like you should have known the answers.
      – Give feedback on work. This is especially helpful and I didn’t see enough mentors/managers doing it at my internship. If you know one person wants something formatted a particular way, tell your intern before they turn in the work.
      – Explain the best way to contact people, especially you. Do you prefer email, IM, stopping by your office? How should they approach different levels? This is a subtlety that often goes overlooked.
      – Set up weekly 1X1s. It’s great to check in and also a great way to talk about things other than work for 5 minutes.

  12. Midwestern Mom :

    I counsel students getting ready to do internship… so great advice above. A few things I would add
    – Bring some snack crackers or an apple in your purse… you don’t know when you will get to eat. Growling stomachs are embarrassing
    – Smile at everyone – admin assistants are just as powerful as the boss when you are an intern. Smile at people when you are walking down the hall… you are more approachable when you smile.
    – Here’s your magic phrase on all projects given – “I just want to clarify your expectation.” And then repeat back what you have been assigned… make sure you know exactly what you need to accomplish.
    – Turn your phone on silent… you don’t want it buzzing with each message or Facebook post… that can be annoying to your co-workers or boss.
    – Related to your cell phone… buy a watch and wear it. Don’t use your cell phone as your watch.
    – Don’t run out the door right at 4:59… delay a little… leave at 5:05.

    Employers – take the interns to lunch on day one and provide them with a schedule… what they will be doing when… it will help make the intern more comfortable.

    • Amelia Pond :

      If anyone is still reading…

      I had my first day at my internship [pd/da etc] and no one even told me when I was supposed to eat lunch…so I just didn’t. Employers, please don’t let this happen to your intern. By the time I realized that it was well passed lunch time I felt to awkward to ask my supervisor who was running in and out of his office all the time. Let’s just say I was very hungry by the time I got home and will definitely be figuring out when I am supposed to eat tomorrow.

      Also, shopping PSA. Costco has some beautiful summer weight wool pants for 25$ in stores right now. They aren’t lined but are beautiful and come in black, grey and a tan/brownish color.

  13. Anonymous :

    Hi all,

    Does anybody have any advice or perspectives on gracefully/professionally dealing with food issues? I haven’t even had the first day of my internship and I feel like I’ve already messed up. Basically, we had to RSVP our food preferences (vegetarian/non-vegetarian) because lunch will be provided during our orientation period. I replied that, due to food allergies I would bring my own lunch. The person organizing everything kindly responded and asked what exactly I was allergic too. I responded and DID mention specifically what I can/can’t and do/do not eat but I thought I was doing it in a light-hearted way that intimated I know my food limitations are very annoying and do not at all, EVER expect to be accomodated. Person X responded and said that she would see what she could do… Uh. Insanely nice but now I feel like a jackass. I responded saying that I was extremely grateful but that she should really not worry about it, it’s much safer for me and less of a hassle for others if I just bring my own food. (Which is absolutely true; I’d rather be “girl who brought her lunch” than “girl who got violently ill”) Was this a mistake? Part of my wishes I hadn’t said anything, had RSVP’d whatever and then just eaten what I thought I could or pretended to eat.

    How should I handle future food encounters? Should I just not say anything and try to work my way around whatever is served? Should I be up-front but self-deprecating about my special snowflake diet? Or should I just unapologetically be like, that’s right, your food will make me VIOLENTLY ILL and I will do us all a favor and not eat it? I’m also afraid of giving away too much information about why I have to eat the way I do, namely a chronic illness.

    Well, this has worked up an appetite… gonna go munch on some air and kale chips.

    • Anonymous :

      Oh my god that should be “allergic to”… I would fire myself for that.

    • AnonInfinity :

      This previous post and comments have some good suggestions.

      If you do a few searches of the site, I believe there have been some thread jacks about this issue in the past, but I can’t find them right this moment.

      I know you didn’t ask this, but one thing that jumped out at me is that you feel bad for speaking up about your needs. If I was the person planning your meal, I’d much rather order something you can eat (if possible) than make you feel like you had to bring your own food. Don’t feel bad, and don’t over apologize for your allergy.

    • I think politely and firmly say, “I appreciate how accommodating you’re being. However, I am on a highly restricted diet (doctor’s orders!), so I must bring my own lunch. Again, thanks for being so willing to accommodate, but I will bring my own lunch.”

      Say it in a cheerful tone, and I think it will be appropriate. For dining out- do much the same. “I’d love to try Le Poisson, but due to allergies I’m on a restricted diet. May we try Totally Vegan or No Nuts? They are both within 3 block of here.”

      • saacnmama :

        If you find out ahead of time that you’re going to Le Poisson, look up the menu ahead of time, call the restaurant if necessary. Know before you get there exactly what you can order without requiring modifications (other than very simple things like “sauce on the side”).

        If you’re working in a big organization, the person organizing the meeting probably won’t have any further trouble getting your meal right beyond passing along the instructions to catering, and food is their job, so you don’t have to worry about it.

    • Anonymama :

      Stop apologizing for having food allergies. Most likely they order food in, and they will just pass on whatever restrictions you have to whoever they order from. And guaranteed you’re not the first person with some sort of dietary restrictions. Better to say, I am allergic to x, y, z, but I have no problem bringing my own lunch if that’s a problem.

  14. I think the advice above is great if you are working at a law firm or on Wall Street or somewhere where formal dress is expected, but for places that are more casual, don’t wear your interview suit to your first day.
    -For places that aren’t business formal: Aim to fit in with the people you interviewed with/passed in the halls or 1-2 notches up. Were they wearing jeans (on a non-Friday)? Go for collared shirt and khakis or dress pants. Polos and khakis? Match it or step up a little to button down shirt/nice blouse and dress pants. You could always carry a blazer or cardigan to dress it up a little, if you think you might need to, but I wouldn’t go for full suit if no one you interviewed with was in a suit. If in doubt, call or email your contact (usually HR) and ask what the dress code/appropriate dress is. Especially if your internship involves labwork or fieldwork, you don’t want to be super-overdressed in something you can’t do work in.
    -Don’t pick your first day of your internship as the day to break out your new fancy shoes. If you don’t normally wear high heels, today isn’t the day to start. Great advice I saw on this site was to try out shoes by wearing them on carpet while doing something that requires standing and walking, like ironing and putting away laundry. Don’t be the intern that clomps or hobbles down the hall in poor fitting or blistering new shoes.
    -Don’t be a bag lady. Either carry one purse and a notepad/padfolio, or a larger bag that can hold your notepad and a small purse or wristlet or wallet – not a large purse and a large briefcase/bag. Be aware that there may not be anywhere to lock up your stuff on your first day (or possibly ever), so travel light until you know where you’ll be settled – you don’t want to have to drag 2 giant bags to lunch because you don’t want to leave your iPad and credit cards unattended. Best to either wear something with pockets you can tuck your ID/credit cards/keys/phone in or put it all in a small wristlet and leave all the rest of your credit cards, etc at home.
    -If you have the opportunity, drive the route to work (or take public transit) during rush hour one day before your start time. Chances are your interview wasn’t during rush hour (or on campus not on site), so check it out to see if there are any major traffic snarls that you’ll need to account for. Also check out the parking situation – especially if your company doesn’t provide parking and you need to park on the street or in a pay lot.
    -Re: Kat’s sneakers and shoes suggestion – after working at a company that routinely had fire alarms go off for random reasons (especially when it was cold/snowy, for extra fun) and had once been completely evacuated mid-day with employees not allowed in until the next day, I always carry at least my car key with me (and keep a spare house key in the car). If possible, I try to wear pants with pockets so I can carry my wallet (a small men’s wallet), my phone and my keys so if there is an emergency evacuation I am prepared. I work in a lab, so I understand there is a higher chance of evacuation/fire/explosion at my job than a typical office building, but I’d still recommend carrying your car key if at all possible (I attach mine to my ID badge I have to wear around my neck when I don’t have pockets).
    -Ask your supervisor/mentor for contact information and what the procedure is for contacting them if you should get sick, stuck in traffic, have a family emergency, etc. Interns don’t typically get sick days, so save it for true emergencies, but it’s better to call in sick than come in if you get the flu and infect everyone. Also ask who you should report to if your supervisor is out of the office.

    One other first week tip – ask if there are any reports/procedures/ industry publications you should review if you have any downtime if your mentor has a lot of meetings, etc. Reading an issue of the latest industry journal or company newsletter may not be all that interesting, but you’ll look a lot more studious than the other bored intern down the hall surfing the web or texting.