Let’s set the scene: you walk into your second week and you already feel out of place. Sure, the work you’re doing is perfect resume-building material and your organization has a positive reputation. Your friends and family couldn’t be more proud. Yet, you’re feeling disconnected and there’s just no clear reason why.

So what’s causing your distress? It may be the one component students often forget to consider when taking on their first internship–workplace environment.

Workplace environment can be defined as the different environmental and social components of your organization that contribute to your work experience as a whole. It’s the sum of all the little things you may or may not be aware of that are working together to affect how you enjoy your internship. These components, like how you interact with your boss or how your physical workspace is set up, can be hard to determine before accepting the position.

While some internships provide more realistic responsibilities than others, you can begin to take note of the aspects that contribute to your organization’s environment (as well as your own preferences for your future places of work) even as you enter your first internship.

Some components to start considering regarding workplace environment:

Who’s in charge?
  • Who do you report to (who is your supervisor)? What is the hierarchy of management within your organization?
  • Is it a smaller company where your supervisor is also head of the organization?
  • How easily accessible is your supervisor?
  • How are you treated during meetings with other employees?
  • Do co-workers not only respect but appreciate and value your input?
  • How often do you get the chance to state your opinion on important issues?
  • How many people work at the organization as a whole? Are there less than 20? More than 100?
  • How do you interact with the leaders/founders of the company? Do you get any chance to?
  • Do you complete your work individually? With one other person? On a team?
  • How do employees interact with each other? Are they friendly?
  • How do members of your office feel about the leadership at your organization? Are they positive or negative?
  • What matters do they discuss in the office? Are the topics they discuss generally professional or personal?
Physical Environment
  • What does your workspace look like? Do you get your own? Do you share with others?
  • What does the space for the organization as a whole look like? Does it have an open feel, encouraging collaborative work? Are there cubicles for individual employees, encouraging individual work?
  • Where are you located in relation to your supervisor? Is their workspace near yours?


While it may take some time working in an organization to identify the answers to these questions, the answers you find will prove vital. As you apply for more work opportunities, you’ll be better able to understand the kind of organization in which you’ll thrive. Keep looking for how your environment contributes to your experience as an intern and you may be surprised by what you find. What kind of work environments have you been a part of?

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