Stop, Reflect, React
If you started work a few weeks ago as a summer associate or intern, by now, you should feel fairly comfortable around the office.
You should know something about your supervisor(s) and his or her expectations. Are they bottom line-oriented or do they revel in details? When he says “draft,” does he expect a rough summation or a client-ready document? Does she expect you to be connected 24/7 or does she expect you to turn your smart phone off, especially in meetings that she calls?
Increasingly, you should also feel that you understand something about the organization’s culture. Is it competitive of collegial? Does it encourage diversity of thought or does it expect everyone to toe a particular line? Does the entity advertise that it encourages work-life balance, and does it walk that talk when it comes to the day-to-day challenges employees face.
If you can answer these questions, you’ve made good use of your summer experience. Now, to ensure you get the most out of the weeks that remain, set aside an hour or two over the upcoming holiday weekend and tackle the following five questions:
1. What’s your reputation?
By now, you’re known for something. You may be known as the first person to arrive at work daily, a great team player, or a slow but steady worker. You could also be known as the summer hire who wore shorts to work, fell off a party boat, or mistakenly sent an ugly email to a bevy of partners. (And yes, previous summer hires have done each of these.) If you don’t know the reputation you’ve developed, ask. Then, take control of the impression you are creating. You have a few short weeks to ensure your lasting impression is a positive one.
2. What have you learned from your assignments?
Think over every task you’ve been assigned, including the most menial, and consider lessons learned. What assignments have you enjoyed and why? How have you been challenged? Have assignments tested your knowledge and talents? Have any assignments been painstakingly miserable? Does the pace of work energize or exhaust you? What feedback have you received, and this is really important, how have you reacted to that feedback? If someone has said you need to show improvement in an area, have you proactively taken steps to boost your performance?
3. How can you improve your résumé?
Take a quick look at your résumé and draft a paragraph that summarizes your summer experience. Describe in three to five sentences the new skills and knowledge you’ve acquired. If you can’t come up with three to five sentences, guess what you need to accomplish during the next few weeks? After you’ve drafted the entry, ask yourself whether everyone with whom you’ve interacted at your workplace would agree with your description.
4. Who haven’t you met?
If there’s a hiring committee, have you met all committee members? Have you met coworkers hired during the previous year? Have you spoken with them regarding their expectations before starting work and whether those expectations have been met? Have you met with people in multiple departments and practice areas? When you accepted this summer position, who were the one or two people you wanted to meet? If you haven’t met those people yet, it’s time to send a meeting request.
5. What’s the one thing you wanted to accomplish this summer and haven’t?
When the summer began, what were your top goals? Did you want to learn how to depose a witness? Did you hope to participate in putting together a deal? Did you seek to become a pro at market segmentation analyses? Review your goals and then critically examine the efforts you’ve made to accomplish them. If you have a ways to go, as soon as the holiday weekend ends, meet with the folks in recruiting and ask for specific work assignments that will help you meet your objectives. You may or may not receive those opportunities, but as I tell lots of clients, “If you don’t ask, you won’t get.”
What You Need To Know
Remember, from now on, you are the sole individual responsible for your success. Take control of your future beginning today.
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