Becoming a Professional: Develop a Professional Attitude

Mary Crane (, who conducts our 1L Etiquette Dinners, recently posted this in her April 2015 enewsletter.

Becoming a Professional: Develop a Professional Attitude

Virtually every employer reports they have little difficulty finding smart, technically competent students for their summer intern and associate programs. However, many of those same businesses report that too many students lack so-called “professional” skills. To convey that you are a professional, focus on looking the part, sounding the part, and developing a professional attitude.

Develop a Professional Attitude

Attitude is everything. You can wear the wrong outfit to work once and still recover. You can even survive a meeting in which you seem less than confident about a particular assertion. But if you bring an unprofessional attitude to work, I can assure you that your summer work experience will not yield the job offer you want.

Following are five attitudes you need to demonstrate each and every day:

  • Be prepared – At a very minimum, once you enter an office, carry a pen and paper or an electronic tablet with you everywhere. This allows you to accurately record assignments and requests as they are delivered. Trust me on this: you never want to interrupt a senior partner to ask, “Do you have a pen so that I can write this down?” The only thing worse may be thinking that you can remember a very specific request . . . and then failing to do so.
  • Take initiative – Attend every event to which you are invited this summer. This includes every single meeting, training program, and business-social event. Employers schedule training events and meetings to increase your knowledge and skills. Show an eagerness to learn and grow. As to social events, these are scheduled so that an employer can start to know you as an individual. Demonstrate an interest in every single person you meet and the organization that has employed you.
  • Welcome feedback – It’s easy to receive positive feedback. Responding to constructive feedback can be more difficult. But here’s what’s important: if you’re told that you need to show some improvement, and then, if in fact, your performance improves, you will actually make a far more positive impression than the person who performed okay but never improved from their first day of work. With any feedback that’s less than positive, here’s your rule of thumb: own the problem and fix it!
  • Understand client service – In a knowledge economy, employers expect summer hires to bring to the workplace a certain threshold of “book smarts.” Possessing a client-service attitude will distinguish you as a professional. Focus on your internal and external clients’ short- and long-term goals. Demonstrate a desire and an ability to help them accomplish their goals.
  • Show some gratitude – A little bit of gratitude will take you a long way. It communicates that you understand your place in the world, which is not necessarily at the center of your employer’s universe. Gratitude can help you land a job, and showing a lack of gratitude can keep you from receiving an offer. Express your appreciation to everyone with whom you work, from hiring partners to office support staff.