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by Mary Crane

About a month ago, you made your first foray into the world of professional work. Odds are that you made a great first impression. Use the next month to build a lasting impression that may lead to a job offer by focusing on the following best practices:

1. Show initiative By now, you’ve received loads of assignments. Don’t make the mistake of turning in a project and then waiting for someone to approach you with a next task. Instead, actively seek out your next challenge. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to tackle work in a particular practice area or department, take initiative and speak to the folks in recruiting. They may or may not be able to adjust your role, but they can’t even know of your interest unless you express it. The same principle applies with regards to people you might wish to meet this summer. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to meet with the head of a department or practice group, email a meeting request today.

2. View every assignment as an opportunity While some assignments are inherently more critical than others, every assignment gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, skills, and commitment to excellence. No matter how minor an assignment may appear to be, give it your maximum effort. When a partner says they need a “draft,” employ the same care, diligence, and thoroughness that you would use for a “client ready” task.

3. Keep and maintain a project list Record every assignment you receive on a designated project list. With each entry add notes regarding issues that arose, people who helped you tackle the project, and the amount of time the assignment required. Project lists can become absolutely invaluable. Throughout the summer, your list can help you estimate the amount of time any new assignment should require. If you become over-assigned, sharing your list with a mentor can help the two of you prioritize projects. And once the summer ends, your project list becomes a reference tool you can use to update your résumé.

4. Speak up Make a commitment to say something at every meeting to which you are invited. You don’t need to make a detailed presentation regarding some arcane point of law or finance. However, you do need to demonstrate your active interest and involvement in the meeting and its purpose. Silence may be golden, but no one can appreciate your talents and abilities if you don’t actively participate in meetings.

5. Show interest Show an interest in everyone and everything connected with work. To the extent you show a genuine interest in others, you will find that others—the hiring committee, your supervisors, and your coworkers—will be more interested in helping you succeed. Don’t forget to show an interest in individual clients, too. Someone with whom you work likely has spent an inordinate amount of time landing the client or servicing him or her on a day-to-day basis. Your expression of interest may create a tie that binds.

6. Request feedback and respond Ask for feedback often. Be prepared to hear that you need to show some improvement. View this constructive feedback as particularly valuable . . . because it is. No supervisor provides feedback unless they view you as someone who can learn and grow into a particular role. If a supervisor tells you that your writing or presentation skills require improvement, call your favorite recruiter immediately and find someone who can coach you to success.

7. Own up to mistakes Everyone makes mistakes. It’s part of the learning process. When you make a mistake, own up to it immediately. Ideally, at the same time you explain your mistake to your supervisor, provide a proposed solution. Whatever you do, please do not lie about a mistake or attempt to cover it up. History is replete with examples in which a cover-up proved more costly than the original error.

8. Speak positively Find positive things to say about every assignment you receive, every person with whom you work, every training program you attend, and every social event to which you are invited. Employers quickly tire of whiners and complainers. Everyone likes being associated with positive people.

9. Avoid becoming too comfortable Your time as a summer associate or intern is really a two-and-a-half-month interview. So don’t let your guard down now. Arrive at work early and stay late. Dress professionally whenever you’re in the office, including during the weekends. Use business appropriate language in all of your communications. Be polite and courteous always.

10. Say “thank you” Express your gratitude for acts big and small. It will cost you nothing, and it will position you as someone who focuses on others rather than on self. Additionally, a whole body of science indicates that people who are grateful experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, and even have stronger immune systems. They express greater satisfaction with their lives both at home and at work. And here’s what’s really interesting: these benefits multiply when gratitude is expressed.

To read more about books and articles by Mary Crane, click here or visit the CDO library.

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