Try to make the life of your delegating supervisors easier whenever possible. Below are some suggestions of how you can do this.
Interacting with your supervisor
When you first meet your supervisor, try to judge their personality and adapt yourself accordingly. Remember, supervisors are usually happy to have a trainee and may well have volunteered to have one.
If you are not getting a good range of work, then talk to them about it. Their job is to develop you after all. You can also ask around for work (although get your supervisor’s permission first in case they know work is about to come in – in most cases, your supervisor should be your priority). Your supervisor may be able to recommend someone else to approach for work and may know who is working on particularly interesting projects. If things do not improve, talk to Human Resources about it.
Keep supervisors informed/remind them of your progress/developments/holidays/training/graduate recruitment events etc. Let them know if you are running late. Seek clearance before taking time off or signing up for training sessions etc. All of this demonstrates good communication skills.
Make your supervisor’s life easier
Come in at the same time as your supervisor (unless told otherwise), always check that there is nothing else you can help them with before leaving the office and check your phone during out of office hours in case something urgent comes up.
Try to make your supervisor’s life as easy as possible. They are probably busier and more stressed out than you are. Thinking of ways to do so will reflect well on you. For instance, if you are marking-up a long document and you have questions for your supervisor, tab the pages where you have questions so that you can quickly refer to each (thus saving time when standing in front of them and actually asking those questions). If you have made changes to a long document, tab the hard copy where the changes appear to stop your supervisor having to read the whole thing. If providing a long research note/report, provide a summary at the top that can be quickly digested. Of course, this will not always be possible, but always think about how you can interact with your supervisor as efficiently as possible and make their life easier.
Try to pre-empt follow-on tasks from the outset and check whether your supervisor would like you to take these on as well.
Research questions you may have before interrupting your supervisors with them. When you have questions for which you cannot find the answer, where possible, try to phrase emails in a way that enables a “yes”/“no” answer from your supervisor, as opposed to just saying “I don’t understand xyz”, as this could save them considerable time (which they will most likely appreciate!).
If you are unsure of how to approach a different task, provide different options/interpretations if possible so that they may be able to simply pick one; this shows that you have at least taken the time to think about the issue. Essentially try to avoid them having to do your work for you.
You can easily create a good impression by understanding, for instance, your supervisor’s formatting/structuring preferences for documents, the way they like things to be printed/presented and the length and detail they prefer for research assignments etc. Similarly, if you have been asked to deliver work for a partner, consider asking associates or that partner’s PA how that partner likes work to be presented.
When things go wrong
Always come clean immediately when you have made a mistake. Something that seems like a huge error to you, may not matter at all to your supervisor or could be easily rectified. The fallout from a small mistake may become a lot worse if you try to hide it (not to mention the negative impact on your reputation as a trainee).
Related article: When you start working, don't be shy. Our article on Asking Questions explains the importance of actively engaging with your supervisor.