All that hard work and you’ve finally landed that great co-op job! Now it’s time to focus on making your co-op turn into another success story for you by being aware of proper office etiquette. Follow some of the simple tips below to help you enhance your experience and be a good citizen at your company!
Dress to impress – Most companies will give you some sort of orientation and talk about the proper dress code, so if they tell you business or business casual – that’s what you wear. If you’re not sure, just look around you – does what you have on fit in with the attire of your supervisor or senior members? Start out on the formal side until you are on the job for a week or two and can observe what’s accepted. Things to avoid – bare feet, flip flops, see-through and clothing that’s too revealing, jeans, work-out clothes, shorts and tank tops. Dress for the job you want, not the one you’ve got!
Punctuality – Find out your assigned work hours and then come in on time and don’t leave before the agreed upon time. If you are sick or unavoidably late, be sure to call in to let someone know. Never mind what your boss or “everyone else is doing” – stick to your hours – it will always come up at review time!
Company culture – Getting the lay of the land is vital. Is the work environment casual or a little more formal? Do employees address managers by their first names or Mr. and Ms.? Know the organizational and reporting structure. What are the rules about taking breaks, using the internet, Facebook and other social media during work or free time? Is listening to music with earbuds on allowed while working? Remember, this is a place of business, not the dorm room, so if you’re not sure what is acceptable, ask your supervisor!
Ditch the dorm life – Falling asleep at the desk is one of the most common problems reported by employers. Now that you’re in a professional setting, eating right and getting enough sleep is a must. A healthy lifestyle will keep you alert and make you more productive on the job. So if you’re used to socializing or playing video games until 3:00 am, now’s the time to adjust your schedule to avoid those heavy eyelids during the day.
What else can I do? – If you’re not busy enough or just want to get more experience, ask what you can do next – time is money so productivity is important. Show them that you are a hard worker and take assignments seriously. Ask questions and absorb as much information and knowledge as you can to get the most out of your co-op. Try to get yourself included in meetings and projects – show initiative and go beyond the basic co-op tasks when you can. Enthusiasm goes a long way!
Be respectful – We all have our opinions and in increasingly diverse workplaces, we don’t always agree. Listen carefully, act maturely and honor others ideas in a non- judgmental way. It may appear to be a dumb way to do things to you, but you may not be aware of the big picture and others may have been there awhile and have a lot more experience. Offering your ideas is fine, just always be respectful of the fact that many people bring many different perspectives.
It’s confidential! –Intellectual property, trade secrets, product designs, formulas and algorithms, ideas for future developments, company reports, etc. are all proprietary information. The same is true for all customer/vendor lists, employee directories and email/address lists, work notebooks. Ask yourself if the information would be valuable to a competitor or anyone on the outside? Treat everything that you see and hear as though it is confidential - when in doubt, don’t share!
Check your ego – We all have to do things that sometimes seem below our skill level. Avoid the “it’s not my job” attitude and accept tasks willingly. The quicker you get the little stuff over with, the more time you have to focus on the more meaningful work. Do the best job you can no matter what is asked!
It’s company property – Everything from scotch tape, the copy machine to laptops belongs to the company and is not there for your personal use. Stick to the rules for use of company cars and travel expenses and always ask permission before using company equipment.
Keep records and get feedback – document your work, keep good records and track your work and projects. This will come in very handy when it is time for your review, to prepare your departmental work report and to update your resume. Time goes by quickly and it is easy to forget details! Consult your supervisor regularly and get feedback about your work. Are you meeting expectations? Clarify any questions you have about projects and procedures. Make him/her aware of any conflicts or problems.
Prepare to stay connected – network with co-workers for future co-op or full time work. Get to know customers and others in internal departments. Start building your network now! Line up your references at the end of your co-op and stay in touch after you leave.
The grandma check – Always conduct yourself in a professional manner as though someone is watching you in and around the office and also during “off hours” at informal parties and gatherings where you might feel it is ok to let your guard down (especially situations when alcohol may be available). Avoid gossip and involvement in “office politics”. Make efficient use of your time and personal calls and emails should not be made on company time. Emails and conversations (even though in perhaps an informal or social situation) should always contain clean language and you should never say anything that can’t be shared with everyone. If you wouldn’t do it or say it around grandma, don’t do it at work either!