Assess your Present Operating Style
- How often do you talk to your professor?
- Do you read "ahead" whenever possible?
- Do you verify your assumptions before starting on an assignment?
- Do you follow up on assignments, midterms results and final exams to ensure that you understand what the expected answer should have been?
A YES to all the above means that you are well on your way to being a reflective learner. Using the same "process" in your work environment allows you to "Make things Happen". A NO indicates that a change in your operational style is needed.
Effective learners observe what is going on around them and use other people to help them keep on track. This means taking the "risk" of asking the "stupid" question and learning to ask effective questions.
In the Work Environment use the observation and question approach to find information.
Research Your New Environment
Knowing the key function of your department and/or industry, roles of the various individuals, where to find things, will help establish a framework.
Office equipment: what will you need, where is it located, and how do I use it. Ask your supervisor about doing your own tour and who you should see if you have any questions.
Office Resources: reference material, availability of files to read for sample format memo, letter, proposal styles and other ideas.
Office Standards: dress code, start and end times, coffee and lunch break times and practices, who to contact if you will be late or absent, policies on doctor's appointments.
Facilities: building access, eating area, rest rooms, parking facilities.
Communication Style: Observe how other employees greet and address one another, answer the phone, write memos/emails, etc. Record any "jargon" words you do not know and think about the standard of vocabulary used in your environment.
Work Style: What time do others arrive in the morning and leave at night. Are their desks kept neat? Do they have personal items on their desk? Do they eat and/or drink at their desk? How do they treat common areas (picking up after oneself)? Do they make personal phone calls?
Remember you are the guest and the junior person.
Handling Your Assignments
Verify your understanding of your assignment. Develop sample output and write down your wording of the key aspects of the task and a time line. As your supervisor/mentor if they have the time to verify that you are on the right track. (This may be done by email).
If you have free time seek out ideas for assignments by joining co-workers for coffee, lunch or other organized activities. Listen to what they are saying. If appropriate ask if you can help or if they have suggestion for things that you can do. Think about possible enhancements to a previous project. Learn a computer software package or another function that will make you more qualified for a possible assignment.
Keep track of your activities for the day and the time spent. Consider the goals of the organization/department and rate the value of each activity. Have you spent your time effectively? Are your priorities inline with the organizations goals?
Keeping Focused & Positive
Consider keeping a journal. Write down all the positives and negatives for the week. Evaluate the negatives, if they are not important stroke them out. If they are important determine the actions needed to improve the situation. Who should I see? What questions should I ask?
Reread all the positives!!! Think about what contributed to your successes.
Asking For Help
Remember most people like to help. They do not, however, enjoy doing your work for you. Make sure you send the "help" message by writing down what you have done, the assumptions you have made and the questions you have. This way you are also less likely to ask the same question over again.
Think about the use of your supervisor's or mentor's time. Don't waste it! Balance the use of your time vs your supervisor/mentor against the value of the answers.