Vacation schemes: making a good impression
6 January 2014 | By Husnara Begum
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You’ve bought the best suit money can buy and spent hours perfecting your hair. You may now look the part but, as career coach and business skills trainer Husnara Begum explains, actions are just as important when trying to create a good first impression
Unlike clothing and accessories, good manners do not cost a penny so it is surprising how some aspiring lawyers forget the basics when attending an open day or vacation scheme.
The most embarrassing examples of students behaving badly involve alcohol, with stories including drunken vacation schemers making unwelcome passes at members of the graduate recruitment team.
In one case, a student got so inebriated that he could not remember his own address so decided to spend the night in the office. He was discovered by security the following morning and then sent home by the graduate recruitment team to shower and get changed. But the unruly student was so mortified that he never returned and the firm has not heard from him since.
However, it isn’t just alcohol-fuelled misdemeanours that future employers and colleagues will remember. More subtle inappropriate behaviour, or even just silly mistakes, can also result in lasting damage. Indeed, any good impression that you create will be forgotten instantly if you act ineptly.
So unless you want to linger like a bad smell, always act professionally and create a lasting positive impression by following the simple tips listed below.
Respect basic office etiquette
- Act professionally at all times – this can be as simple as saying thank you, holding a door open or waiting for people to get out of a lift before you barge in.
- Make yourself likeable by offering to make tea or fetch drinks, especially if one of your colleagues has offered to do the same for you.
- To avoid forgetting names draw a plan of the office and jot down where everyone sits. This also works well at meetings so you can work out who is saying what – especially important if you have been asked to take notes.
- Remember you are in a place of work and not the students’ union so turn down the volume.
- It’s perfectly fine to talk about non-work related stuff to your colleagues but try not to pry and avoid being sarcastic.
- Avoid taking on the role of office clown – for most this is a massive turn-off.
- Do not gossip in the lift or even in the toilets. Keep your mobile phone/tablet switched off and do not use social networking sites while you are at your desk.
- Avoid flirting even at social events and under no circumstances make a pass at anyone from graduate recruitment or any of the trainees or qualified lawyers.
- Knock on someone’s door before entering.
Adopt a positive work ethic
- Be punctual at all times by being at your desk and logged on by 9.30am and not walking through the door and then going straight to the kitchen to make a drink or eat your breakfast.
- Tackle all tasks, however simple or mundane, with enthusiasm and do not create the impression that you are too good for it.
- Be a team player, avoid being overly competitive and do not show off.
- Figuring out when you can leave the office in the evening or even go to lunch can be difficult in an environment where most people work beyond 5.30pm. The sensible thing to do is ask politely if it is okay to leave and to finish your task in the morning. It is also polite to ask if your supervisor needs help with anything else before you go.
Avoid silly mistakes
- If someone does not offer to show you how to use the phone (for example how to make external calls and how to answer your colleagues’ phones), email, printer or photocopier then just ask. It is especially important to learn how to use the photocopier and printer before copying or printing long documents.
- Always carry a pen and notepad to make a note of instructions.
- Tell your supervisor if you do not have enough to do and vice versa
- Create a ‘to do’ list.
- Never blag – ask for clarification if instructions do not make sense or if you simply do not understand the task. The same applies with jargon.
- Confirm deadlines and do not be afraid to speak out if there is a clash.
- Always pay attention to detail and check work thoroughly before handing it in – producing shoddy work will result in your supervisor instantly losing confidence in you.
- Save documents when you first create them and save regularly thereafter – indeed, make sure you actually know how to save documents.
- Use proper English when drafting emails and avoid content that might cause reputational damage. Start emails with “Dear xxx” and end with “Kind regards” and you won’t go wrong. And avoid using text speak in emails.
- And remember: creating a lasting good impression is one of the most important aspects of securing a training contract or pupillage. So never leave your manners at home.