Getting a job

6 Tips for Surviving Internship Culture Shock

No, this isn’t an article about traveling to China, France, or England for a summer internship or volunteering abroad in the developing world. This is about the culture shock that each and every intern experiences when beginning his or her first ever professional-work experience.

Culture shock occurs when you’re suddenly confronted with an unfamiliar way of doing things or a way of life that you’re unaccustomed. In that vein, it’s no surprise that students, coming from a 20ish hour week in the classroom, suddenly hit a brick wall when starting their first full-time internships. Coming to the working world may be no easy transition, but the good news is that the initial disorientation of the 40+ hour work week will wear off in no time at all.

Here are six tips that will help you overcome business culture shock.

1. Make yourself a routine.

The secret to adjusting more quickly to a new environment is to create patterns in your workflow. You’ll start to feel at home before you know it. The only missing ingredient will be time, so know that you will need to…

2. …Be patient!

No matter how gung-ho you are about making a difference, it takes time for both you and the company to fine-tune your presence. Like any longstanding relationship, you can’t rush the process from “first date” to “marriage.” Allow some time for all the pieces to fall together.

3. Stay ahead of the game with research.

Invest time in gathering info about your new work environment, your daily expectations, the scope of your work, and any tasks you anticipate being given. Manage your expectations properly. You’ll feel less out of place if you come in with an idea of what the heck is going on.

4. Embrace the new culture.

The easiest way to integrate yourself into your new working life is to embrace it fully, the challenges, difficulties, ups, downs, and otherwise. The sooner you recognize certain behaviors or attitudes as your own, the sooner you will feel at home in your new work environment. Avoid nitpicking the parts you dislike and instead focus on the parts you do like. It’s all about perspective!

5. Find some work buddies.

One way to turn a house into a home is to love the people in it. Your coworkers will undoubtedly affect your ability to “love” or “like” your internship. Invest time in forming appropriate professional relationships (and even friendships) with your new colleagues. Bonus, if he or she is new too; then you can combat the workplace culture shock together!

6. Know that everything is a learning experience.

Focusing on whether or not you have been given the exact work you expected undermines your overall learning opportunity. You may not change the world with your internship, but you are gaining serious insight and perspective on both the working world and on your personal professional goals.

What advice would you offer first timers shifting from the world of studying to the world of working?

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Megan Lee

Megan Lee has been working international education for the past four years. When not trying to convince you to study abroad, Megan can usually be found Lonely Planet in tow at her favorite neighborhood coffee shop.