Tips for Success at Work

You got the job—now, prove yourself to your supervisor(s) and colleagues!

Here are some tips for success in your workplace as an intern, co-op, or entry-level full-time employee.

  1. Make a good first impression. It’s really important to start off on the right foot on your first day in the office. Arrive on time, dressed appropriately.  Show enthusiasm, no matter what you are asked to do. Never refuse an assignment on the basis that it isn’t your job. Remember that your duties will become progressively more interesting and involved once you have shown what you can do!
  2. Be reliable. Notify your supervisor anytime you will be late for or absent from work. Follow through on your assignments and any commitments you have made at work.  Provide your supervisor(s) with periodic status reports—ideally, before you are asked to do so—and exceed his or her expectations.
  3. Follow the chain of command. If you are having a problem at work, go to your supervisor for assistance first. If the problem is with your supervisor, contact your employer’s Human Resources department.
  4. Get to know the culture. Some workplaces are more formal, others more casual. Observe the culture in your workplace and tailor your behavior accordingly if you want to fit in.
  5. Find support. Colleagues can be great workplace resources. If you're lucky enough to find (or to be assigned) a mentor, nurture that relationship. Interns or co-ops, get to know the other students at your workplace too, so you can support each other as you are learning the ropes.
  6. Go along to get along. Make an effort to get along with everyone at work, including people who are difficult or annoying. Personality conflicts and clashes affect not only the work of the people in conflict but also that of others in the office. Be cooperative, not competitive, with your colleagues.  Offer new ideas and solutions but be willing to give others credit where it is due.
  7. Ask questions. Many new employee mistakes are the result of false assumptions.  Always ask if you aren't sure.  Still confused?  Ask for additional clarification!
  8. Take professional ethics seriously. Be ethical about how you use your time at work. You’re being paid to do a job, so avoid spending much—if any—time on personal email, social networking, or web surfing. Find out whether or not your workplace has policies against the use of personal email and/or social media sites.
  9. Communicate like a professional. Be conscientious about the tone of your workplace communications, both oral and written. Double-check your spelling and grammar before sending emails to your supervisor(s), colleagues, or customers. Don’t use foul language and avoid discussing controversial or emotional topics at work.
  10. Be respectful. Be on-time for staff meetings and contribute ideas whenever possible. Listen politely to your colleagues’ ideas, even if you don’t agree with all of them.
  11. Keep customers happy. If you work with customers outside your company or organization, treat them well. Happy customers can help businesses succeed—or cause them to fail. Seek help and support from your supervisor or colleagues if you are having trouble dealing with a difficult customer.
  12. Stay positive. Do your best to maintain an upbeat attitude at work, even when things get frustrating.  Find at least one colleague who knows how to boost your spirits when you’re feeling down.

Engineering Career Resources & Employer Relations

College of Engineering

117 Hammond Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4710

Phone: 814-863-1032