Q. What are the rules for interns around social networking time, personal email, and texting/personal calls?

A. There aren’t any hard and fast rules per se. The proper behavior depends on the style and culture of the company in which you intern. Most companies don’t publish an official list of rules, but you can quickly learn the “unspoken” rules by careful observation. Here are a few basic guidelines to help you when you start your internship: 

  1. If in doubt—don’t. Until you’re sure what’s acceptable, err on the side of being conservative. Start by turning off your cell phone and putting it away when you enter the office.
  2. Tempted to use your iPad to browse the Internet while you’re waiting for a meeting to start? It would be much better to engage a co-worker in a conversation and find out more about the company or your assignments. Like to check an app on your iPhone to find out the weather? Better wait until you have a break.
  3. Socializing with other employees usually takes place before work, during lunch or break-time, and after work. When a company has a social function, make sure that you go and capitalize on that time set aside for social networking.
  4. You probably have MySpace and Facebook accounts to keep connected with friends. It’s better to keep these personal accounts separate from your work life. Make sure the accounts are private, so if an office mate Googles your name, they won’t find out more about your personal life than you would like.
  5. Many interns blog about their internships. (See the Eye of the Intern  blog on internships.com). A word of caution—be careful what you say or it could cost you your internship. You may have some humorous stories about what happened at work or you may want to vent about a problem in the office, but do that in person with a friend, not on your blog, where someone connected to your company might see it.
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