This list would’ve been extremely helpful for me when I first entered the workforce fresh out of university. There’s just so much I didn’t know, and how could I have? That’s why I created this list. So you will know what I was painfully unaware of.
1. It’s OK to get up and go to the toilet
On my first day of working in an office, I had no idea of the culture or etiquette or anything like that. It was a mystery. This was my first ever “real job”. I was so damn nervous that I’d barely slept the night before. Anyway, I thought I had to ask to go to the toilet. Like I was in school. HOW COULD I HAVE POSSIBLY THOUGHT THAT?! It baffles me now, and breaks my heart a little bit too. In the end I just went for it (that sounds so dramatic) and, of course, no one said anything. In conclusion, yes, you are allowed to go to the toilet. Who’da thought?
2. Think twice before you press “Reply All”
Ah, ‘Reply All’. A handy and deadly function. The amount of times I’ve seen an e-mail that was absolutely not meant for me is ridiculous. Check twice before you press it, because you definitely don’t want to send an email that was meant for your friend to your boss…
3. If you want something, make it happen
About three weeks after I joined the company, I went on a training course called “Personal Effectiveness”. While I was listening to the trainer, I couldn’t help but admire the her. She was confident, knowledgeable, and funny. I realized that I wanted to do what she was doing, run training courses. Now, moving jobs three weeks after I’d joined the company probably wasn’t going to happen, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t plant a seed. I told her I wanted to join her team. She said to keep in touch, so I did. We met up a few times over the coming months, and after about nine months she said she was going to have a vacancy in her team. Because we knew each other, and because she knew I was more than a bit interested, it was a much easier decision than it would’ve been otherwise. As I said, if you want something, you have to make it happen.
4. If you want to talk to an executive, do it
I was due to video one of our executives for an announcement she had to make. We had 30 minutes booked, but it took just 10. I then realized the opportunity I had to sit down with one of our executives and just talk. So I asked and she said yes. We sat down. We talked. And, without it being my intention, she helped me to get a new job. Most people couldn’t believe it when I told this story. Couldn’t believe I had the “balls”. All I could really say to them was “but she’s a person too, right?” If you do this, it will separate you. It will make you “different”. Trust me.
5. If you want to talk to the CEO, do it
Our former CEO was to answer some questions on Yammer, our internal social network. They told us to use a particular hashtag and he’d read them that way. I did that, but there’s also a way, like on Facebook and Twitter, to tag someone so they get a notification. Knowing a huge amount of people would be asking him questions and he wouldn’t see all of them, that’s what I did. I asked four questions, and he answered them all, and even had a bit of banter with me. People said “you actually tagged him?” in hushed tones. Yes, I actually did. As I said before, HE IS A PERSON. LIKE YOU AND ME.
6. Things change
In three years of work, I’ve had seven managers and four jobs. So, yeah, things change. Roll with it.
7. You can make and have friends at work
I have a few genuine friends that I’ve met at work. Don’t rule it out.
8. There are some incredible people to learn from
I’ve always been more interested in being a leader than a follower. And I think, on occasion, this led to me become somewhat arrogant. Just because you look up to someone and want to learn from them, doesn’t mean you’re a “follower” or that you’ll just do whatever they do. But you can learn something from everyone, whether it be a good or bad lesson. There’s been plenty of people at work who I’ve learned both from.
9. There is a massive amount of incompetency
At least, there’s a lot more than you’d think. And in this lies a huge opportunity for you to stand out. I hope no one from work reads this. But, it is true.
10. Getting promoted is about both performance and who you know
It’s not all about who you know. But, if you had no idea who someone was, would you vouch for them? Would you put yourself on the line for them? Would you hire them?
11. Culture change isn’t for everyone
It seems to be an omnipresent force, but you can’t force people to change. And we shouldn’t.
12. People complain (and do nothing about it)
Count how many times this happens in just one day and it’ll probably reach double figures. There’s no need to be this person. If you find yourself complaining, do something about it. Eventually, no one cares about the person who doesn’t bother even trying to help themselves.
13. You might not love every single part of your job
This is the case with many people undoubtedly. But the question you have to ask yourself is, “is it worth it?”
14. Enjoying what you do is the most important thing about a job
Your boss is very important. Whoever is in your team is important. Your commute is important. Your salary is important. However, none of these things will matter if you don’t like what you’re doing, because day in and day out, that’s what you actually do.
15. Say “hi” to the cleaners
Again, they’re people. Just like you and me. Most people ignore them, and I’ve certainly been guilty of that. Are we really too busy to say hello? Or is there a deeper, more sinister reason we ignore them? I hope not.
16. You’re not going to be friends with everybody
But it is nice to be able to get along with everyone you work with, even if you’re very different.
17. Don’t be friends with your boss on Facebook
Do you really want your boss to see what you do on a Friday or Saturday night? I’ve never made this mistake, but I know friends who have and I know they’ve regretted it for whatever reason. Always.
18. Your parents will ALWAYS ask you about your day if you live at home
It’s true. This has happened more times than I can count. Sometimes, it’s nice and I’d want to talk about my day. Sometimes, I just wanted to chill out and not talk to anyone. It can be the most annoying thing in the world. However…if you take just one minute to tell them about your day, it’ll make life easier and better for everyone, rather than telling them to, essentially, shut up. Or, just do what I eventually did and move out.
19. Bring a packed lunch
It’s healthier and saves you money. No brainer.
20. Be proud when you do something well
You’ll achieve a lot more, at least task-wise, when you start work compared to any other time in your life. Day in and day out you’ll complete small and big tasks, and it’s really important to acknowledge that. When I first started, I didn’t acknowledge this at all, and it’s still something I could be better at. I’d only focus on what I’d done “wrong” or where I could improve. Now, I strike a much better balance between being proud of what I’ve done and still focusing on where I could be better. As a result, I’m more productive and I’m happier.
21. Don’t say “yes” to everything
I made this mistake. What did it lead to? Well, it lead to me doing a poor job and having difficult conversations with my manager. Neither of these were pleasant. The reason I said yes to a lot (everything) was because I wanted to do a great job and I wanted to impress people. So, my intentions were good. The results were not. Saying ‘no’ a lot more often is tough at first, but you soon realize that you can then work on just a few things and do a great job with those few things, rather than do an average job on loads of things. I’m sure if you asked someone to do something for you, and they were honest with you and told you they couldn’t do it, that you’d prefer that over them saying they could, and then not delivering.
22. Go to the gym during the day
During the daytime hours, it’s really quiet. If you go at five, be prepared to wait for everything. Or, buy some weights and lift at home. Like I did.
23. Practice public speaking whenever you can
There’s often a lot of opportunity to do some public speaking, even if it’s just in your team meeting. You’ve got to start somewhere. It’s an impressive skill to have, because most people are too scared to do it. And, at some point, you’ll probably have to present a piece of work you’ve been doing, so it’s better to have had some practice. When I first started work, I was uncomfortable speaking in my team meeting which involved about 10 people. Recently, I spoke to an audience of 350 people for 10 minutes. How? Practice and self-esteem. Am I ‘good enough’ to speak to an audience that size? You’re damn right I am. And I know that now. What is it about public speaking that you’re scared of? Are you, too, worried that you’re not ‘good enough’?
24. Pick up the phone / go speak to someone
Sending an e-mail is the easy way out. Everyone does it. Some people actually send e-mails for urgent issues, too, and I can’t even believe that. If it’s that urgent, surely you’d actually talk to someone or pick up the phone.
Picking up the phone or going to talk to someone face to face will separate you from the crowd. It’s something I’m working on doing more for that exact reason. Also, you just get stuff done quicker. If you send an “urgent” e-mail at 9 a.m., you might not get a reply until that afternoon. Or, at the end of the day. Or, the next day, even. It’s your e-mail that you’ve sent because you want something done. It’s your to-do list, not their’s, so there’s no obligation for them to drop everything they’re doing to help you immediately.
25. Sit with good posture
I didn’t sit with good posture for the first two-and-a-half years of my working life. Well, 90 % of the time I didn’t. That led to back and shoulder problems, neither of which were serious, but they were inconvenient. I sat out of a lot of basketball games and I always felt like I had to stretch in weird positions. It was, more than anything else, really annoying. I went to an osteopath (who was brilliant) and it turned out it was an easy fix: I had to be more conscious with my posture. When I was at my desk I wasn’t sitting up straight, I was leaning forwards, and my computer positioning was rubbish. Altering my posture and my computer positioning, and being conscious of both of these things, has massively improved my posture and I now have much less back and shoulder problems.
26. Be you
When I started doing this, I was more productive, laughed more, had more fun, and was happy. It’s a no brainer, really, trust me. Plus, your company doesn’t need a group of clones. That’s the easy choice and the safer choice and the boring choice. If they say they do, even in a roundabout way, then leave. And, if you don’t really, truly, know who you are then isn’t it time you found out?
Featured photo credit: Florian Klauer via ununsplash.imgix.net