Working Stiffs Unite

So if you’re like me after my senior year, you haven’t ever really worked a “real” job before. What the hell is going on? Can I check my email? What is acceptable and what will get me fired?

Here is a handy list based on my measly 6+ months of working in the “real world” that might be of use to all you c/o 2005.

  1. When in doubt, go formal. Use ‘Ms’ and ‘Mister,’ wear a jacket, shake hands and nod often. At least for a couple of days til you get a gist of the subtleties of your work environment. Which leads to the next tip
  2. Observe and Read Social Cues. Watch your co-workers. Who looks like they fit in, and who seems awkward or underdressed? Who is received well, and who is glossed over?
  3. Big Picture: often when you start working, you are assigned small bits of different projects until you and the company are ready to start you on your own. It’s easy to lose sight of what you’re contributing to. Asking questions about why what you’re doing is important and how it relates to the overall goals not only keeps you better informed, but shows you taking initiative and investing time in understanding.
  4. Repeat Back Your Assignment More often than you’d think, a superior will walk into your office and ask you to complete something, or to make changes to something you’ve already created. Before you dive in, stop for a moment. By repeating back what you think they just asked it ensures that you didn’t misunderstand their instructions.
  5. Take Responsibility When you’re new, it’s not only possible but also very likely you will make mistakes. Sometimes it’s a big deal, sometimes it isn’t. Don’t defend yourself: take responsibility, apologize, ask what to do in the future to avoid these problems. This is related to my next point
  6. Take Notes When you are new, you can get literally dozens of useful facts every day. Sadly, most of them don’t get absorbed because you are nervous, overwhelmed, confused, etc. Write it down – even if you don’t use it right away you never know when you’re going to use it.
  7. Get A Calendar Usually your company will release a calendar every once in a while with important dates on it. USE IT. Keep track of when people will be away from the office, deadlines for projects, and other pertinent and time sensitive information. This can prevent walking into your boss’ empty office or someone breathing down your neck about hurrying for the 5 pm Fed Ex drop off.
  8. Don’t Forget To Eat Breakfast and lunch have to fuel you until you get home. It is increasingly difficult to concentrate and execute quality work when you are distracted and weak. Don’t eat Fritos out of the vending machine either – try to eat at least one healthy meal per day so you’re getting the nutrients your brain needs to survive.
  9. Go To Bed Days of napping between classes and sleeping in til noon are over. Boo hoo. Deal with it. Be smart and get your necessary hours of sleep so you don’t crash at work.
  10. Try To Be Yourself It’s easy to feel like you need to put on a persona at work – you did it for your interviews, after all. When all is said and done, you can’t spend 8 hours/day pretending (or maybe you can, but it’s exhausting, in which case I suggest you really take #9 very seriously). In the end, they hired you – best to give them what they want.

*Thanks to g00dhunter

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