Posted: May 23rd, 2014
With final exams ending and the graduation season winding down, interns, summer associates and new hires have begun to enter the world of work. National surveys consistently report that these junior workers possess loads of technical skills. Too often what they lack are a series of practical skills that can help them quickly distinguish themselves in the workplace, including: the ability to work as a team member; the ability to organize, plan and prioritize work; and the ability to communicate with a wide variety of internal and external clients in a manner that leaves those clients feeling confident and assured.
The 2014 national survey of employers conducted by NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) confirms what many 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.