Copyright © 2014 Mary Crane & Associates
The most successful summer associates and interns enter the workforce prepared to succeed. Whether you are a career services professional or a recruiting and training professional, make sure every summer hire knows the following 10 things before he or she starts work:
1. Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Targeted) goals for the summer.
Know the types of assignments you want to tackle and the people you wish to meet. Ask for assignments. Your request may or may not be granted, but you're more likely to achieve your goals when others at work know of them and when you actively pursue them. Make notes about the work you complete, highlighting lessons learned. Eventually, these notes will help you expand your résumé. Keep a record of the people with whom you work. Consciously add them to the professional network that you should begin building this summer.
2. Do a Day One "test run."
Summer hires have one opportunity to make a Day One first impression, and the impression you create must be a positive one. No one should arrive late on Day One. A day or two before you start work, travel to the worksite in normal commute traffic and determine the expected length of your commute. Add 15 minutes more for possible delays in traffic and at office security.
3. Understand appropriate attire.
Where an employer has specified "business conservative," summer hires should wear suits. Where an employer has specified "business casual," employees are still expected to dress for an office setting. Generally this means well-pressed and tailored slacks or skirts and conservative tops. It's always better to be known as the summer hire who dresses exceedingly well than as the summer slob. And please remember, in most offices, the following are never appropriate: torn jeans and t-shirts, low-cut tops, sundresses, and flip-flops.
4. Know how to introduce yourself and others.
Be prepared to introduce yourself to everyone you meet. State your name clearly and provide a descriptor. ("Hi, I'm Manuel Ortiz. I'm a summer associate currently working with Anita Morgan in Mergers & Acquisitions.") Extend your right hand for a firm handshake. Make eye contact and smile.
If you have an unusual name, provide others with a clue that will aid their pronunciation. For example, Serena Vaux might say, "Hello, I'm Serena Vaux. It's pronounced vaux just like faux in faux leather."
When you introduce others, state the most important person's name first. So, if you're speaking to the CEO of the firm, and you wish to introduce the CEO to a fellow summer intern, say, "Ms. Zoff. I'd like you to meet one of my fellow summer finance interns. Aliyah, this is Ms. Zoff, the company CEO." (Note the use of the social title "Ms." Plan to use social titles when speaking to someone who is much older, occupies a leadership position within the organization or is from another country.)
5. Create a professional persona.
As soon as you enter the workplace, stay completely focused on work. Remove your ear buds and stash away your personal smart phone. Greet others in the elevator and as you walk down the hallway. Always carry a pad of paper and a pen, allowing you to record assignments as they are given. Start each day by checking in with your supervisor to confirm whether overnight emergencies require you to reprioritize your work. Before you leave at night, confirm with your supervisor that all loose ends have been tied.
6. Demonstrate your time management skills.
You will quickly encounter a host of demands on your time including assignments, training opportunities, and a variety of business-social events. Please do not ask a supervisor or a recruiter to help you prioritize your tasks. Demonstrate that you can manage multiple demands professionally. At the same time, once you have taken on several assignments, please do not take on additional work if you will be unable to successfully complete an assignment in a timely manner. Be prepared to tell your supervisor, "I'm currently working on three projects. If I take on this new assignment, we'll need to reprioritize my other work. What's your top priority?"
7. Turn in client-ready assignments completed and on time.
That means no typos and no stray markings. Show interest in assigned projects. One law student, who did not receive an offer at the end of last summer, reports she's certain the offer was withheld because she failed to undertake appropriate follow-up, for example, she never asked, "Is there anything else I can do for you with regards to the product liability research I turned in last week?"
8. Attend social events.
You'll find social events play a critical role when it comes to building your professional network, so by all means, attend them. In addition to meeting key contacts, these events give you the opportunity to demonstrate your comfort level with the social side of business. At networking events, wear your nametag on the right side of your outfit. This will keep your name in another's line of sight during your introduction and handshake. Before you head to a business meal, brush up on your table manners. Always treat wait staff respectfully. Limit your alcohol consumption.
9. Use your employer's technology for work-related projects only.
Every email you draft on an office computer must be business-appropriate, i.e., use correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. Do not write or text anything using office-issued technology that you wouldn't want to see on the front page of the local newspaper or posted all over the Internet. Understand expectations regarding your accessibility via smart phone. If you're expected to be accessible 24/7, when attending a meeting, keep your phone on and turned to vibrate. If 24/7 is not the expectation, when meeting with work colleagues or your supervisor, turn your smart phone off.
10. Ask for feedback . . . but not every day.
At the end of major projects, ask your supervisor for his or her feedback. Listen carefully. If you disagree with the feedback, feel free to explain your decisions and/or actions. However, please do not initiate an argument. When a supervisor suggests areas of improvement, tackle those areas immediately.