I joined the world of full time employment approximately 2 years ago, and I was genuinely terrified. Everything I had learnt up until that point about the working world had been solely down to my pointless enthusiasm for watching Friends re-runs, rather than studying for a good grade in my degree. If honest, I’m still mildly clueless as to the way to make a career in an industry I have finite knowledge about. However, I thought I’d share the few tiny spots of wisdom I’ve reaped, in the hope that some of you can relate.
Firstly, lets talk ‘work personality‘. Think, The One with Chandler’s Work Laugh, and you’ll know what I’m referring to (I really wasn’t kidding about the Friends re-runs). When I first started out, I felt the need to stifle many of my personality traits for fear that it wasn’t professional to simply be yourself. For the most part, I’m pretty loud and have a small propensity for bossiness, which I didn’t want to go shouting around about (ironic, I know). Rather, I decided to act in a way I thought was more appropriate for a corporate office environment. Needless to say, this didn’t last long. Within 3 months of showing my true colours, another team at my company picked up on qualities in me that they thought would be better suited elsewhere in the business, and I got offered a new position, and never looked back. Don’t be afraid to be yourself at work – people will like you for it, and it might just earn you the opportunity to progress quicker than you may have done acting in the way you thought you should. Note – there are always exceptions to the rule… don’t be the office gossip (even if it pains you to keep you mouth shut).
Secondly, I find myself to be fairly knowledgeable in handling crappy first (second, and third) jobs. Think, Rachel Green‘s days at Central Perk coffee shop. Granted, I can’t say having a job making coffee in central NYC rivals spending a 3 month stint working in Birmingham, selling Warehouse Management Systems. For the record, I still have no idea what a Warehouse Management System is, and I never sold any. Anyway, it is almost inevitable that you’re going to have to do a bunch of awful jobs before you find one you get on with. It’s all just part of the process, and none of these jobs are going to define your career path or stop you from getting your ultimate job, when you eventually work out what that is. As much as it can be painstakingly depressing to do something you hate; it can be really helpful. Doing something crap, makes you realise what you don’t want, and spurs you on to go out there and get what you do want. Or, it at least buys you some valuable thinking time. In my experience, you also meet many people in the same position as you, and they’ll odds-on become great friends. All the greatest friendships are made bonding over the mind-numbingness of spending three-quarters of an hour wiping down plastic menus at the end of an 11 hour shift. Ahhh the joys of life in your twenties.
Thirdly, you’re also likely to experience shit people, who have somehow achieved a great deal at work. Remember when Monica gets locked inside an industrial size fridge by her co-workers for being mildly annoying? Well, that’s kinda what I’m talking about. We all experience working with people that just aren’t that nice, and try to make life difficult for you. There is no point denying it sucks, and I unfortunately can’t give any solid advice as to how to stop colleagues acting in this manner. The only thing I will say is that it seems to be that the people that act unkindly at work, or pick on junior staff, do so mainly for the reason that they feel insecure in their own position. That, or they’re arrogant arseholes, who probably have no friends outside of the office either (screw ’em!). Try not to take it personally (easier said than done) and just focus on trying to be the best you can be, and getting noticed outside of their remit.
Finally, faking it at work. We’ve all done it. Pretending you know more than you do in the interview process and then being mortified when your new boss wants you jumping in at the deep end right off the back of your introductory 30 minute HR chat. Don’t panic! In my experience, it is totally acceptable to not understand most things when you first start a new job, and to ask stupid questions to all of your colleagues as you find your feet. All companies work differently, and there is always going to be a period spent in a state of bafflement at new processes and stupid acronyms. It only really becomes a problem when you start a new job, and don’t stop the interview ‘faking it’ process. Come clean, and ask as many questions as you can whilst you’re still the new girl (or guy). Also, probably best not to pretend you can speak French on your CV à la Joey, as we all know how that one turns out. Toute-de-la-Fruite.
That’s about it. If I were to write a blog post on things I’m yet to learn about the world of work, it would be a whole lot more comprehensive. To save time, below is a short list, which hopefully will make you feel better about how much more you’ve achieved in your ‘career’ than I have.
Things I’m yet to learn:
- How to call in sick, when genuinely sick. Too. Bloody. Conscientious.
- How to use the office coffee machine (too late to ask – I’ll stick to the instant variety *cries into mug*)
- How to ask for more money, without being wholly British and painfully awkward
Until next time…. just think, The One with Ross’s Sandwich. “MYYYYY SANDWICHHHHHH”. Just because it’s funny, and Friends is still a fantastic way to get valuable life advice. Please don’t eat other people’s sandwiches at work. End of.