The Office vs. The Classroom

The transition from classroom to office can worry some students. Many of us see a drastic change in the two and wonder how well we will adapt. Although every office is different, the majority of them (hopefully) are nothing to fear. However there are some subtle differences between the two. As an intern you should be aware of the similarities in order to make the most out of your internship. If you understand both the striking similarities and the subtle differences it can lead to a rewarding internship for both you and your supervisor. Unlike college, projects won’t always come with a deadline. But just because your supervisor does not give you a “due date” does not mean you can procrastinate. You will be given a lot of autonomy and independence. Once your supervisor delegates a task or project to you, it is up to you to finish it in a timely manner. This is vastly different from college, where a professor might give you a specific date of completion. Interning provides great experience in tracking your own progress, setting internal deadlines, managing time, and working independently. Without your supervisor telling you when to get things done, you are forced to look at your schedule and find out how to best complete the task on your own.

Many students acknowledge that there is a barrier between both professor and student. They teach you however many days a week and you visit them during office hours and that is as far as the extent of the relationship goes. Your supervisor is nothing like a professor in this retrospect. There are not as many barriers set up the way that there is between some professor student relationships. As an intern you are basically an employee and you will be treated that way. So your relationship with everyone in the office will be on more than a hi and bye basis. You will actually get to know the people you are working with. Do not fear that the office place is a cold, dreary, and always serious. Yes professionals are here to do a job, but you will find that the occasional joke will be cracked. Career Services has a welcoming atmosphere and although the office is very quiet, everyone is friendly and willing to talk. So do not be afraid to approach your supervisor or others in the office for quick chats. You can learn a lot in a five minute conversation with a person who has been in the working world for a long time. So although professors are not always very approachable, people in the office usually are willing to help an intern with any questions or concerns they have.

Dress code. Some places are business casual some are business formal. One thing I can guarantee is that if you are working in an office you will not be able to wear sweatpants and a t-shirt like you do to go to class in college. In college students can be seen wearing sweats and even pajamas to class, but in an office environment this is unacceptable.  If you are unsure about how to dress, over dress the first couple of days and then adapt depending on what everyone else is wearing. Here in Career Services it is business casual for the most part. And since Fridays at UAlbany is spirit Fridays a purple t shirt is even acceptable. So get to know your office and pay attention to what everyone else is wearing.

If you do not use your calendar in college be prepared to use it in the office at your internship. The calendar is where everyone schedules their day and it helps the office run smoothly. In Career Services the calendar lets us know who is available to take appointments with students and alumni and who is not. Another reason the calendar is important because believe it or not it will help you manage your time. You will have meetings, presentations, and tasks you will be working on. You do not want to forget any of these things, so the be sure to use your calendar and find a place where you can write yourself a checklist of what needs to be done every day.

Most college classes require you to take notes. You will take notes during your internship, not because it’s expected of you, but because you will need to. A lot of information will be relayed to you on a day to day basis. To keep track of it all you will want to write things down. Don’t trust your memory. I would recommend getting a portfolio that way you can have all your notes in one place.

Interning is a great way to try out a career. You can find out if you enjoy a particular field or if it is no longer something you want to do. Either way you want to make the most out of your internship because at the end of the day work experience in an unrelated field is infinitely better than no work experience at all.

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