10 Keys to Summer Success

By Mary Crane

Reposted with permission from Mary Crane. See original post here: Mary Crane’s eNewsletter

The 2014 national survey of employers conducted by NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) confirms what many of us have long known: employers increasingly seek summer associates, interns and new hires who demonstrate a strong ability to work with others—including peers and senior employees as well as clients and customers—and who can plan, organize and complete their daily work without external supervision. With schools graduating so many talented students, today’s employers rarely view strong technical skills as a differentiator. Rather, possessing technical skills simply “meets expectations.”

If you are an intern, summer associate or new hire, here are ten “Things You Need To Know” to distinguish yourself in the hearts and minds of your employer.

1. Make sure your supervisor always looks good.

This means: no surprises. Keep your supervisor informed of the status of projects, especially delays and significant problems that you encounter. Turn in projects that are client-ready, i.e., free of typos and stains or stray markings. If you become aware of some inner-office or client communication that could affect your supervisor, make your supervisor aware of it.

2. Dress with respect.

The attire you wear to the office creates an impression that extends to your supervisor. Always dress in a manner that reflects well upon both of you. Your attire should also demonstrate respect for any clients with whom you’ll interact.

If you have opted to work for a more conservative organization—say, a white-shoe law firm or a state legislature—you should dress in a more conservative manner, which likely means suits for both men and women. If you have taken a job in a fashion-forward organization, you should dress in a manner that communicates your understanding and appreciation of fashion.

At a very minimum, avoid: dirty, stained, torn or frayed clothing; any clothing bearing words or images that others might find offensive; any clothing that reveals cleavage, excessive chest hair, whale tails and plumbers cracks.

3. Act professionally.

Everything you do in conjunction with work should communicate your respect for internal and external clients.

Before you walk into an office building, remove your ear buds. Acknowledge other people you know in the building lobby. Whenever you board an elevator, recognize any coworkers you encounter. As you walk to or from your workstation or office, greet others you meet along the way. First thing in the morning, check in with your supervisor. Do another check-in at the end of your workday.

Be punctual to all meetings. This demonstrates your respect for others’ time. Know your supervisor’s expectations regarding smartphone use during meetings. If he or she expects your complete attention, before any meeting begins, turn your smartphone off.

4. Complete projects on time.

Tackle every assignment you receive in a timely manner. Should you experience unexpected delays or interruptions, do not withhold this information from your supervisor until the very last moment. Remember, no surprises. Inform your supervisor as quickly as possible. This allows him or her to adequately manage the expectations of important internal and external clients.

Inevitably, you will require a coworker’s input to complete a project. Should your coworker fail to perform in a timely manner, in most cases you’ll remain responsible. Telling a supervisor, “I emailed Jim in marketing for his input, but he hasn’t gotten back to me,” won’t cut it. Find ways to work with others and to complete projects on time.

5. Interact professionally with clients and customers.

Clients and customers are the life-blood of every organization. Without them, you don’t have a job. Always ensure customers and clients feel treasured like the valued people they are.

Whenever a client or customer is present, give that person 100 percent of your attention. End all personal conversations, phone calls, emailing, texting, and the like. Yes, put away your smartphone and other electronic devices.

To demonstrate your respect, when you first meet a client or customer—especially one who appears to be older than your parent(s)—use the social titles of “Mr.” or “Ms.” Do this whether your first interaction involves a face-to-face meeting or an email. Once the client or customer requests that you use a first name, by all means do.

6. Work as a team player.

As a student, much of your success has been determined by how well you’ve performed on individual projects. You’ve either scored well on a test or you didn’t. As a summer associate, intern or new hire, you will often be assigned to team projects. As such, your success will be measured by how well the entire group performs.

Understand your role. Have you been tasked with leading the group? Then you are responsible for developing an overall game plan, assigning specific tasks to individual team members, coordinating the effort, and driving the project to completion in a timely manner. Have you been assigned to a supporting role on a team? Then you must complete each specific task that has been assigned to you within the requisite time frame. Additionally, you must be prepared to assist other team members when your help is needed.

7. Good team members communicate & make themselves available.

Share all information relevant to the completion of a project. When in doubt, more sharing beats less. Avoid becoming known as the one team member who failed to share a critical piece of data.

Take advantage of each team member’s unique skill sets. Encourage “big idea” people to brainstorm and encourage “detail” people to create standard operating procedures for the team. Recognize others for their hard work. Say positive things about the team publicly. Give constructive feedback privately.

Be available. Avoid wasting the valuable time of other team members. If the team has been called upon to work in close physical proximity, let others know before you step away. If the team is scattered around the globe, let others know when you will be reachable electronically.

8. Work effectively with support staff.

Right now, virtually every member of the support staff knows more about the day-to-day requirements of your job than you do. You’ll catch up soon enough. For now, it’s important that you understand these staff members can make or break you. Give them lots of reasons to want to help you succeed. Always speak and work with support staff in a polite and respectful manner.

9. Handle differences professionally.

In the course of the summer, a disagreement may arise. You must manage those differences with tact and on your own—without elevating issues to your supervisor. Doing so not only demonstrates that you have good manners, it also demonstrates that you are a professional who can manage all of the exigencies of the day-to-day workplace.

Resolve differences of opinion via this three-step process: 1.) acknowledge the disagreement; 2) seek a shared understanding of the underlying facts and assumptions; and 3) jointly develop a plan for moving forward.

10. Develop an attitude of gratitude!

Every assignment you receive—even a month-long document review in a windowless room—gives you the opportunity to shine. Show appreciation for these opportunities. Express an interest in every project and in the customers or clients for whom you are ultimately working.

Please eliminate the phrase “no problem” from your lexicon. Every time a supervisor thanks you for your efforts, and you reply, “no problem,” you immediately devalue your work. Instead say, “You bet. I really enjoyed this project,” or, “It was my pleasure. If there’s anything else I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to shout.”

Every week this summer, find one person who has made a positive difference in your life at work, and go out of your way to thank that person.

About nsulawcareers

The Office of Career & Professional Development (CPD) offers many programs, activities and services to help you in your search for rewarding employment. Some of our offerings include: Resume and Cover Letter Review Symplicity – The Online Job Board and Legal Resource Center: Fall and Spring Recruiting Mock Interviews Career Publications and Library of Resources Career Cafe Speaker Series Job Fairs Public Interest Law Center

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