Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Getting the Most Out of Your Professional Experience

So after months of talking about how to land that job or internship with resume, cover letter, interviewing, networking, and social networking preparation, your first day is coming up. Summer is around the corner and you have that summer internship or job all lined up…but now what? Sure, the hard part of finding and being accepted for a position is over, but having a strategy to be a valued employee or intern while learning and having the best professional experience possible is still important!

Being a successful professional is a topic that has been discussed around the country and world by notable experts. After researching a variety of career blogs, websites, and articles here are the tips needed to make the most out of your experience.

1. Be timely and efficient!

Like any interview or important meeting being on time to the job or internship is extremely important! When you establish right off the bat that you are there on time and ready to go – you are subconsciously letting your co-workers know that you care and are ready to go. Starting off the day late can often times negatively affect your performance throughout the rest of your day.

2. Dress for Success

Always dress professionally. Although it is important to dress to the environment you’re in, always remember that you’re the one who is trying to either get a job or move up in the job you’re in. On your first day, take a look at what your superiors are wearing and imitate their level of professional dress.

“When I was an intern at CBS4 News, when talking about professional dress attire, our internship coordinator said, ‘Don’t just be professional, look professional. Remember we already have our jobs, you’re still trying to get one.’” – Brittany Moore

It is ALWAYS better to over dress than under dress. Again, subconsciously by dressing professionally, you are demonstrating to your peers that you are serious and care about what you’re working on.

3. Take the initiative and seek out MORE opportunities

This is probably one of the most important parts of making the most out of your experience. Remember, although you may be working and helping the company, at the end of the day it’s important to keep in mind what YOU’RE taking away from the experience. One of the most valuable and notable things you can have on your resume is your experience – so always be seeking new ways to gain that experience. Take on the mindset that the more opportunities you seek out, the better skills you will gain and can add to your resume.

Keep in mind that during internships, your co-workers and superiors aren’t going to hold your hand and guide you to every possible experience. They have their own jobs to worry about and aren’t going to know what you are interested in learning. Simply ask! Your superiors will almost always be willing to help and show you things, but they won’t know what you’re interested in until you ASK!

4. Find a mentor

Finding someone in your industry you can seek out for advice and questions is an invaluable asset you should always be on the lookout for. Career blogger Penelope Trunk lists in her blog 7 Ways to Find and Keep a Mentor

1. Identify a potential mentor
2. Have good questions
3. Don’t expect miracles
4. Be a good listener
5. Prove you’re serious
6. Always be on the lookout
7. Give back

To find out more mentorship tips, visit Penelope’s Blog

5. Be trustworthy and dependable

Whether you’re an intern or an employee, the company you are working with has established some level of trust in you. Regardless of whether the company is depending on your confidentiality or your ability to get a job done, trust has been given to you. One of the most important things to learn in the professional world is NOT to burn any bridges. The quickest way to burn a bridge is by losing someone’s trust or failing to get something finished. You never know when that burnt bridge may come back to haunt you. It’s a small world and people talk; you want to make sure they are saying only the best about you!

6. Do more than what is expected!

The best ways to get noticed, build relationships, and gain opportunities is by going above and beyond the expectations. If you are always jumping at opportunities, spending extra time on projects, and helping anyway you can, your efforts will be noticed and could result in great experiences and opportunities. Who knows, you might even be recommended for or offered a job just by putting in some extra effort.

7. Network every chance you get!

Just because you have already landed the job or internship does NOT mean you stop networking – it means you network MORE! Now that you are in the professional environment, it will be much easier to network and build relationships with clients and co-workers. Remember, it’s not just about what you do, but also who you know.

8. Show up ready and excited!

There is something to be said about being effective and efficient while on the clock. Being responsible and getting the appropriate amount of sleep, eating right, etc. will all improve your attitude and ability to perform while on the job. You can’t make the most out of your experience if you’re not in the right frame of mind to do so!

9. Evaluate the company and industry

Remember, you are just starting your professional career and should be evaluating whether that job or internship is what you want to continue doing. Entry-level jobs and internships are meant for testing out the waters and seeing if this industry or job is really what you want to be spending your time doing. You have many years to work and it is important to always evaluate your professional experiences and decide whether or not you are happy with your work.

10. Be on the lookout for portfolio fillers

Whether you are trying to build your resume, website, or blog content, you should always be on the lookout for ways to collect examples of your work. Chances are your future employer will want to see examples of your work. Internships and entry-level jobs are the perfect time to start collecting samples of your work. Additionally, this is a perfect opportunity to ask your mentor or a co-worker you have closely worked with to write a recommendation letter for you. Letters of recommendation will come in handy with future job applications.

Hopefully these tips have made you feel more confident during your professional experiences this summer or in the near future. Don’t forget that you don’t have to figure everything out on your own! CU-Boulder Career Services will be open all summer and invites you to come in, ask questions, and seek advice. For more information about summer hours and programs visit our website.