5 Professional Development Tips & Tricks

By: Kristin Butler

tips-and-tricksIt’s nearing the end of another first semester at Ithaca College and that means two things:

  1. Winter Break is right around the corner
  2. If you want to take advantage of summer job opportunities, you need to start thinking about applying for internships… now.

So many people focus on how to apply, what to do on a resume, and how to update your LinkedIn, but I want to talk about what you should keep in mind once you’re there. 

Last year during my freshman year winter break I had the opportunity to shadow an Ithaca Alum at an Advertising agency. If you are shadowing an employee over the break like I did, these tips and tricks can also be applied to your experience.

1. Dress For Success.

One of the first articles I wrote for PRSSA was about dressing for success. This was crucial then and it is crucial now. It always will be. Whether on the job or in the office, dress everyday like your best self. Why? Other than the obvious reasons of feeling great…

  • You look more professional, and this can compensate a little for the age gap. It’s important you are taken seriously, and I always feel like being the best dressed gives you a little boost of confidence and credibility.
  • You’ll never know what you are doing or where you are going. During my internship this summer, there were a few days in the office that turned into “We just scheduled a meeting with someone and it’s in an hour.” I looked at myself and knew this outfit was appropriate for the office, but had to ask myself “is this appropriate for meeting a client?” Thankfully, many times my answer was yes, because I dressed for success for work in and out of the office.


I’m not kidding. I’m a type A kind of person so I always like to log everything I’m doing, but this is especially important for people that aren’t like that naturally. Whether it’s getting someone’s business card at a conference and writing a few facts about them on it for your follow up email, or just writing down important quotes and behaviors you observe while in a meeting, everything can help you in the long run.

When I was shadowing my freshman year, I wrote down everything in a journal during the experience, so I could remember what I was learning and could look back on it when I wanted a refresher. Every experience you have is a wonderful opportunity to learn, but if you forget the experience, you won’t learn anything. But I’d be cautious how much you write in comparison to how much you interact, because you don’t want to be so invested in it that you actually miss the moments.

Small bullets or comments, even just a few thoughts you are thinking in a meeting or writing down someones name and a quick fact can be helpful. Relationships are very important, and you want to remember everyone you meet. Especially if your boss texts you and asks who that one person was that you met two weeks ago for 5 minutes in a room with 50 other people. And of course, you can’t remember off top of your head. But it’s your boss and you always want to deliver. It’s okay to have to “phone a friend” and to make that friend be a notebook because you know your notebook will always remember!

Startup Stock Photos

3. Read what you can when you can.

Especially for companies you are working for or in an industry you are unaware of, you want to be knowledgable among colleagues and in meetings to be able to understand what they are talking about. You can’t learn from a meeting if you don’t understand what the meeting is even about. Read industry articles to broaden your knowledge and research about the company. It’s never bad to be informed.

Having good knowledge about the topic at hand also increases your self-esteem while interacting with people. When it comes to meetings with really powerful people or even just strangers, read about them before you get to sit in on a meeting. Know one or two things about them that not everyone would, just in case you have an opportunity to interact. And if you don’t interact, that’s okay, it’s great practice for when you do. You can easily find things like this on LinkedIn. I love looking at volunteer work, past experiences, or what kind of things they post, since I think it gives me a better understanding of who they really are in their business.

4. Ask Questions.

When I first started shadowing and interning, everyone that I asked for advice said “be imagesseen, not heard.” I get that, you don’t want to be arrogant or pretend you have suggestions for something you don’t know anything about, but I feel like this quote deterred me from wanting to say things at all. This included questions. I know everyone is afraid of asking stupid questions and I won’t lie… there certainly are questions that can be easily searched online, but if you have a question about something within the company or a client you can’t google yourself, please ask. If you are genuinely interested in a concept or idea mentioned while talking with your boss, you can ask about it. Don’t feel like your questions aren’t valid, especially if there are people in positions you aspire to be in one day. You should have curiosity for what their advice is to get there. You’re there to learn. So, learn.

5. Say Thank You.

No one ever complains about anyone being too humble in an industry. Be thankful for where you are. Be thankful for where you’ve been. No one has to hand anything to you. If they do, it’s an opportunity you should be grateful for as someone starting out. Not everyone gets to shadow. Not everyone gets to be an intern. No one has to invite you to shadow their job. No one has to hire you as their intern and mentor you. Thank your boss for bringing you on to the team. Thank your co-workers for giving you the behind the scenes de-brief so you feel welcomed. Thank your mom for buying you those clothes from J.Crew. Thank your dad for always supporting you. Send an email to those that you meet that really leave an impression on you. Thank everyone that matters to you. Let them know you appreciate them, and every opportunity they’ve given you.


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