Getting the most from your summer?
A month ago you started your summer with a plan, and whether you realized it or not, an opportunity for professional development. If you have an internship, you probably went into this with your eyes wide open. There’s plenty of advice around, although mid-summer is a good time to refresh your memory and enthusiasm with these recent articles from Money and Quintessential Careers.
If you’re spending the summer working at your “regular” job or engaged in a study or service project, you might not have thought much about the professional development aspects. Now that you’re half way through the summer, you might be realizing there’s a lot going on.
Take a minute for this mid-summer review, and make the most of this checklist to reach your long term professional goals. If you have questions, comments, or advice from your own summer experience, register now and post a comment!
__Have you found a mentor? You will learn the most from any activity if you have someone to tell you the “hidden” rules and show you the “secret” tricks—or just give good advice. If you haven’t already found a supervisor, co-worker, or older worker who’s taken you under his or her wing, now is the time to identify someone. Don’t be shy! Just think of a question, and ask that person for a minute to “pick her brain” or “run something by” him. People love to give advice, and next thing you know, you’ll be getting a lot of it.
__Have you become part of a peer network? Some of the people you meet this summer will continue to be your business associates, and you are creating a professional network of people that you can trust—and who can trust you. These will be the people you’ll call for advice, references, and resources when you get your first job and need to “hit the ground running.” Make sure you’re keeping track of names, phone numbers, and email addresses. If you don’t already have a solid method for saving contact information, buy a system now.
__Do you like the job? Whether you answer yes or no to this question, you should be thinking about why you answered the way you did. What are you learning about the company, the industry, the job, and your boss? What are you learning about your own personality, preferences, and skills? The answers become a blueprint for things you need to do or learn next year. Whether you decide to change majors, read a book on dealing with difficult bosses, or just brush up on your office manners, you will have learned something from the summer experience.
__What are the company’s expectations of professional behavior? Sometimes you learn the most from mistakes, but even if you are getting lots of positive feedback, take a little inventory of the communication skills, organizational awareness, reasoning skills, and attitudes around you.
- What kinds of communication skills are expected? Does everyone seem to know how to give a polished sales pitch? Are active listening skills something a new hire should have? What are the non-verbal messages being sent by attire, postures, manners, and vocal habits?
- How much organizational savvy does it take to be successful? Are there a lot of unwritten rules and unstated assumptions? How and why do people get rewarded? What does a person have to pay attention to in order to be successful?
- How do decisions get made? What kinds of evidence and reasoning are used to convince others? Do people write convincing memos or comprehensive white papers? Are decisions made alone, by committee, or on the shop floor? What does it take to get what you want?
- What kind of attitude do professionals have? Are they going the extra mile, or only doing the bare minimum to keep the job? Do successful people have a positive, optimistic attitude or a negative outlook? Do letters, worksheets and reports get sent back for corrections, or do folks take the time to submit their best work from the start?