Q. I’m stressed out about starting my first internship. How do I transition from student to professional intern?

A.  It’s natural to feel stress at times of change, even positive change, which includes starting an internship. You’re entering a new world, and you want to make a good impression. The Career Center at your school may have helpful information online or in printed guides to help you prepare for your internship. Check the Career Center calendar for any pre-internship training classes. You can take the Intern Certification Program on internships.com to sharpen your professional skills and boost your confidence. Or if you’re already “iCertified,” you should review the material again. Here are some tips to help you transition from student to professional intern:

  1. Start with the “outer you.” If you look good, you feel better about yourself. And your ability to manage new tasks improves.  Is it time for a new look? Study business publications (like Inc. or the Wall Street Journal) or industry specific publications related to your internship field, or go to the website of the company where you’re doing your internship to see if you can determine the preferred style and dress code.  
  2. Consider the “inner you.” Does your stomach flip-flop when you picture yourself walking into your internship on the first day? Try taking deep breaths to settle your nerves ahead of time. Build a positive attitude by reassuring yourself that you wouldn’t have been chosen if the company didn’t believe in you. Does your heart race when you think about meeting lots of new people?  Maintain a calm exterior by extending a firm handshake and by smiling at your new co-workers. Remind yourself that these people expect to like you. You bring added value to the company.
  3. Establish your new routine. It can help if a week before your internship starts, you maintain the same daily schedule that you’ll have during your internship. As a student, you may have stayed up late and slept in if you didn’t have any morning classes. As a professional intern, you’ll probably go to bed early in order to get up early and get to your internship on time (or even early). Try to get eight hours of sleep to ensure that your energy level is high. If you had an exercise routine as a student, integrate that routine into your new schedule even if it’s going to the gym at night instead. Physical activity relieves stress.
  4. Choose a friend that you trust and can confide in when you’re feeling stressed at your internship. You’ll probably need a good listener during the first week until you develop a comfort level at your internship. A friend who is interning at another company or who has completed an internship would understand your feelings, offer support, and honor your confidence. Don’t let stress build up either before or during your internship. You may find that reducing caffeine in your diet could also reduce stress. Experiment on what works best for you.
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