Your first “real world” job will be filled with learning curves and there are certain things that your college degree simply won’t teach you. Understanding your new work environment can be much more complicated than navigating your college campus. And unfortunately as the office newbie, there are certain work culture faux pas your coworkers simply won’t tell you until it’s too late.
Here are 7 tips that will help you avoid looking like a complete jackass at your first job:
1. Be on Time, Better yet Early. In New York City, 9 to 5 does not exist. Whether your office technically “opens” at 9am or 10am, ask your coworkers what time they get into the office and at the very least, get in before your manager. You still have the most to learn in the office and showing up on time proves you care about your job.
2. Don’t Leave Early. Unless you have a medical emergency or a death in the family, it is generally frowned upon to leave before your manager unless he or she says it’s ok. If you have to leave early, make sure you ask first and cover off on all deliverables before you do. You’re getting paid to work and if you’re taking long lunches or skipping out early your boss will begin to question your value to the company.
3. Slow Down. Sure your manager will be impressed that you can do your work quickly but it’s much more important to complete it correctly. Take your time to review your work. Spelling errors are not acceptable when you have spellcheck. You will inevitably make mistakes but catching most of them before your manager does is key.
4. Take it Easy with the Jokes. Joking around in the office can be tricky, especially as you observe your coworkers doing it. It can make the work day more fun but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are given a pass to joke the same way. You may think you’re getting along really well with your coworkers and try to get in on the fun but you may end up unintentionally insulting someone. Don’t take things too seriously but be careful not to push buttons, since most of these people have worked together for years. Your best bet is to stay as PC as possible your first few months until you put your time in and observe what is acceptable.
5. There is Such a Thing as TMI. Making friends in the office can be great and sharing common interest can be the perfect way to break the ice with new coworkers. However, no one wants to hear about the great Victoria’s Secret bra you bought, digestive issues you are having, or the fight you had with your boyfriend last night on your second day in the office. At the end of the day you are in the office to work, not vent or gossip. Work friendships develop overtime and you should be careful what you share early on.
6. Don’t be Lazy. It’s ok to ask questions to make sure you are doing your job efficiently but it’s equally important to try and figure things out on your own. It shows that you’ve proactively thought through possible solutions of the task that was being asked of you before you asked the question. Don’t spend too much time running around in circles trying to find the answer but a little initiative goes a long way.
7. Respect is Earned, it’s not a Privilege. As the newest and, generally, youngest member in the office, you have the most to learn. While everyone will welcome you on board, a lot of time goes into getting you trained. Despite how knowledgable you think you are, you do not know everything. There are people who have been at the company long before you and have years of experience ahead of you. In the early stages, it’s best to take a piece of humble pie, sit quietly and eat it. Before you know it, you will be up-to-speed and no longer the new kid in the office.
For most healthy adults, physically moving on is much easier in comparison to mentally moving on. Although most people don’t understand why I run as far as I do, and it can be a literal pain in the ass, most days it’s easier to deal with than my emotional baggage.
I used to get exhausted just thinking about putting one foot in front of the other at a consistent pace. So when my manager suggested I try a half marathon last year, I thought he was crazy. For a girl who could barely run more than a mile, 13.1 seemed impossible. But after 16 weeks of hot, grueling training, I did it. I finished my first half marathon without stopping or walking. It challenged my body physically but more importantly taught me a mental strength I didn’t even know I had. Some how I convinced myself to just keep going.
Last year, was also emotionally challenging. My friends and family will tell you that I’m a confident, outgoing and self-assured woman. They know they can count on me to be there for them when things fall apart. They will tell you I can be stubborn, have a quick tongue and hate to ask for help. I do my best to see the glass half full, make others laugh and always keep a smile on my face. From the outside I appear strong and assertive but for the last three years, on the inside I’ve been ripping at the seams. It makes me mad and sad admitting I’ve been recovering from a mentally and physically abusive relationship. How does someone so “strong” admit they were so weak?
I can talk and write about anything but when it comes to topics like domestic violence and conversations like #whyileft I couldn’t seem to put my story into words. I spent a lot of time blaming myself for allowing someone like that to come into my life. Someone who I had loved so deeply, yet made me feel so small. Someone who would one night drunkenly punch me in the leg during an argument because I tried to stop him from leaving. Someone who put his hands around my neck because I took his cellphone out of his hand and blamed me for provoking him. Someone who needed to be escorted out of my apartment by the police New Years Eve and still try to come back up after they left. Someone who continued to bully me by writing scathing 10-page hate letters calling me a “shit head” and that I only worked well with men because I have “big tits.” Someone who would still harass me, two years later, by posting pictures on social media of places around my office and apartment. Someone who would make me feel completely and totally insecure.
I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself that my situation wasn’t that bad, to keep looking forward and I would eventually move past it. Friends and family wanted to help but even they were at a loss. I spent a few months in therapy trying to piece together where I went wrong only to realize I needed to stop blaming myself. I found solace in writing but running was my saving grace.
It was the one thing I could do for myself, just me against me, to sort things out in my head for a while. I chose to physically beat myself up before ever mentally beating myself up again. That’s why I made the crazy decision to sign up for my first marathon in March. And it’s even harder to believe that the race is now only two weeks away.
Completing this race not only proves I have the physical strength to run 26.2 miles but the mental strength to get through the emotional marathon I’ve put myself through for the last two years. There are a lot of things we tell ourselves we are not capable of and at times, can’t imagine we will ever get through. By running this marathon, I’m freeing myself of the fear that’s held me back for so long and ready to celebrate this physical and deeply emotional victory on October 19th. Come hell or high water, I will finish that fucking marathon.