Northeastern University

Manage Your Professional Success

Many first-time Co-ops report that they have to guess at the right things to do and say; they want more reassurance from their supervisors than they get, and they worry that their co-workers are talking about them in a negative manner. Here are several suggestions to make your job experiences positive and productive.


SHOW INITIATIVE - Be enthusiastic about completing all tasks! Always put forth your best effort. Performing poorly on routine tasks will send a message that you are not ready for more advanced work.

ACQUIRE GOOD WORK HABITS - Professional behavior will be noticed and rewarded: arrive on time, keep reasonable lunch hours, be a team player.

ASK QUESTIONS - There is no such thing as a stupid question. One of the most common causes of poor job performance is failure to ask when you don't know something. Good, thoughtful questions demonstrate a searching mind and a desire to learn. On the other hand, repeatedly asking the same question over and over conveys the sense that you have poor listening skills. One of the best things you can learn on co-op is when to ask a question and when to try and figure the problem out for yourself.

DEVELOP GOOD TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS - Be able to prioritize tasks to get work done on time. If your supervisor doesn't say how quickly s/he needs a request fulfilled - ask. Do not wrongly put it at the bottom of your list of things to do. Generally speaking, your supervisor's priorities should be your priorities. Tune into what's important.

KNOW HOW THE COMPANY WORKS - Get to know the company's various departments, branches, goals services, procedures and people. Reading an orientation and/or policies and procedures manual is a good idea if one is available. Study the organizational chart if available; follow the appropriate chain of command.

MAKE A COMMITMENT - Organizations promote an individual because the individual has shown a level of commitment to the organization. Commitment is and will always remain one of the major factors for an individual's success. Remember to focus on what you want to do and what you want to accomplish during each work experience. Once you are on-the- job, continually monitor and evaluate yourself and the experience. Be aware of what working conditions are best for you. Discover the skills you enjoy using and would like to enhance. Do not be afraid to experiment- you won't know what your potential is unless you test your talents.

MAXIMIZE YOU POTENTIAL - Do not be limited by your job description. Bring curiosity, creativity, enthusiasm, and initiative to the job.

PAY ATTENTION TO OFFICE CULTURE - Learn the unwritten rules, read memos, listen to lunchroom talk and observe people. Find out what skills or behaviors get rewarded and identify the people with clout. Begin to network with people in other departments to find out about the overall organization. Honor the chain-of-command, communicate clearly with others, be aware of your behavior and its effect on others. The more you know about the total organization, the better you can understand your job and your own contribution.

PERSONAL APPEARANCE - Make sure you dress in a professional way, suitable to your job. Pay attention to personal hygiene, neatness, and overall appearance.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OPPORTUNITIES - When possible, attend staff meetings and in-service education programs. Use free time to read appropriate professional literature. Take the opportunity to conduct informational interviews with your fellow employees.

TAKE CONTROL OVER YOU OWN CAREER DIRECTION - Talk to your supervisor about your goals and the skills you would like to develop on Co-op.