Recommendations for working students
(Or ways to get the most out of your working experience)
- Take your co-op position or internship seriously.
Make yourself an invaluable asset to your supervisor, co-workers and co-op organization. Take each assignment seriously; complete thoroughly and before deadline -- no matter how trivial it seems to you. Don't conduct personal business or allow your personal life to intrude on company time. Also, do not use your employer's equipment or supplies for personal use.
- Have a good attitude.
Have a positive attitude. Be friendly and introduce yourself to others in the office. Don't overreact to situations. Remember to keep your sense of humor; it is a rare and appreciated commodity.
- Look and listen.
Each work environment is different, so study the culture of your work place. Consider the following:
Whom do you contact if you will be late? What is the dress code? What are the official start/end times and lunch break practices? How does the equipment you will use work? Do employees keep personal items on their desks or make personal phone calls? Do they eat and/or drink at their desk? How do employees address each other? How is the phone answered? What "jargon" is used? Are sample memos, letters and proposals available for you to read? Where are restrooms, parking, eating areas, first aid stations, and general use areas?
- Ask questions.
If you need help, ask for it. Most people want to help. They do not however want to do your work for you. Document what you have done, the assumptions you made, and the questions you have. Keep notes on suggested solutions and failed attempts. Jot down questions as they occur to you.
- Clarify your understanding of assignments.
Write down project requirements, including a timeline, and verify with your supervisor that you are on track. Ask questions when you are unsure of how to proceed.
- Respect other people and their time.
Remember that you are a new staff member. Don't immediately suggest making changes -- gather facts and research your ideas and then present them in an organized, well thought out, and well written or spoken manner. Respect other's time by making an appointment to go over your questions, or send an e-mail.
- Set learning objectives.
Write a clear, specific statement describing measurable goals you hope to achieve. Discuss these goals with your supervisor, who may have some to add. The goals should relate directly to your assignment. Your main goal should be to maximize the experience and document lessons learned.
- Take initiative.
If your work term starts slowly or you complete assignments, seek new projects -- don't sit around idle. Listen for needs. Offer assistance, or ask ideas on new projects. Consider enhancements that could be made to previous projects. With your supervisor's permission, learn new software or equipment skills that will make you more qualified for new projects and responsibilities.
- Accept responsibility.
Don't try to cover up your mistakes. Own up to them and do what is needed to correct the situation.
- Honor confidentiality.
Be aware of and strictly follow your employer's policies on confidentiality. Any information you work with, including the results of your own research, belongs to your employer. Your employer may require you to sign a company (proprietary information, non-compete, confidentiality) agreement.
- Be aware of conflicts of interest.
A conflict of interest is any situation in which your access to the employer, or to workplace information, will result in personal gain for you or a relative. If you find yourself in such a situation, inform your supervisor immediately.
- Create a professional portfolio.
Save copies of anything you create during your work experience (i.e. letters, Web pages, fliers, articles, designs) for your portfolio. Note: Get approval from your employer before making any copies.
- Keep a daily or weekly journal of your experience.
A journal helps you put things in perspective and recognize the lessons learned.