27 September 2008

Using Titles at the Internship Site

Stuck on titles? Some workplaces value the formal (Mr. Smith is our accountant) while others promote familiarity (Bob is our accountant). The local culture may be just this obvious and you will be able to adapt to the customs of the workplace.

Or... the culture may appear obvious for the regular employees but not at all for the interns. You may feel reluctant to address staff members by their first names even when everyone around you is doing it. Your reluctance is actually a good safety net!

Recommendation: ask your mentor at the site how you should address staff members. Here are sample questions:

  1. "How shall I address you and the other staff members?"
  2. "Should I call people by first name or last name?"
  3. "I am accustomed to using titles at school, such as Dr. Smith. Should I continue that practice here?"
  4. "A lot of the clients are much older; should I use titles like Mr. and Ms.?"
As a rule of thumb, assume the more formal route until you are directed otherwise. Use Mr. and Ms. as the routine titles. If you see that a person's name is followed by initials of M.D., Ph.D., or Ed.D., then the appropriate title is Dr.

You may be invited to call a staff member by first name, such as "Paul" instead of "Mr. Smith." But you will have one more setting to test: what will you call Paul in a meeting with external visitors or with agency clients? To be on the safe side, revert to "Mr. Smith" until you are certain that "Paul" is acceptable in all settings.

The content on this blog is not offered as legal advice or guidance. Consult your college, advisor, or internship supervisor for help with issues surrounding internships. © 2008 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. Dr. Bold is a co-author of the book Reflections: Preparing for your Practicum or Internship, geared to college interns in the child, education, and family fields. More about Dr. Bold can be learned at www.marybold.com

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