April 24, 2017
Nobody ever sits you down before you start working and says, 'Listen, there are one or two things you should know about offices. They're pretty strange places. Here's how to avoid coming unstuck.'
We've compiled some of the things we wish we'd known before we ventured into the workplace as young graduates. Here are ten pearls of wisdom office veterans should tell their younger colleagues.
“Try new commutes; dreading getting to and from work shouldn’t be a part of your life. Don’t feel that you have to do the Tube every day. I used to catch the Northern line from London Bridge to King’s Cross every day, which was horrible - I’d arrive at work so stressed. I found a bus which took me the same amount of time, I had a seat, and it dropped me outside the office. It was much cheaper, too.”
“As a rule of thumb, for every great team lunch you have, nine will be godawful. Pub lunches, especially in the Square Mile, are known for being tepid, overpriced affairs. I often felt very resentful at attending the monthly team lunch as you were expected to go, and you had to pay for yourself. To cut the cost, don’t have a starter or drink alcohol - and make sure that’s taken into consideration when it comes to the bill.”
“I went to Pret for years as I thought it was just something that everyone did, and I didn’t want to stick out. Bring in your own lunch. Bring in your own snacks. You will save a fortune.”
“It took me years to have the discipline to learn this, but always leave the office Christmas party by 10.30pm, tops. After that time, stuff gets...weird. Really weird. Like, ‘I’m calling HR first thing in the morning’ weird. It’s also not worth buying something nice to wear as someone will drunkenly spill something down you and/or you’ll fall over on the dancefloor, which will be covered in dropped food and drinks.”
“I was always so grateful to be offered a position when I was jobhunting, so I never negotiated my salary. I always thought it would make me look rude or arrogant. It doesn’t - provided you stick to a realistic salary you know other companies are offering, feel free to sensibly negotiate. It shows you know your worth.”
“Keep an eye on salaries in your field - there are plenty of sites which will show you what other people doing your role are getting paid. If you feel you’re not earning enough, start planning to speak to your boss about getting a payrise. However, this is not a process you can rush - timing and planning are everything.”
“I always struggled with being more assertive; when I worked for a PR firm years ago, my manager was always too busy to have meetings with me, and I really missed the support and guidance a quick 30-minute catch up every few weeks would have given me. Don’t take no for an answer; be tenacious (but not rude!). If you keep politely asking for what you need to do your job properly, you’ll eventually find people are willing to accommodate you.”
“Invest in some decent shoes and a good coat. This might sound unfair, but you’ll be judged on what you wear if you don’t make the effort. There were lots of IT guys who wore hoodies, jeans and trainers at my last place, and their managers treated them really badly as they assumed, wrongly, they looked ‘lazy’.”
“Lots of big businesses offer lunchtime courses or seminars, ranging from assertiveness training to putting together an infographic. Try to learn as much as you can; your manager will be pleased you’re willing to invest in yourself and the company, and obviously, you’ll learn something new. Don’t sneer at the idea of emotion-based courses; they’re the ones which taught me interpersonal skills I still use today.”
“Don’t go to the pub every lunchtime, even if your colleagues do, and you want to fit in. You’ll feel rough, your performance will suffer in the afternoon, and you’ll spend a small fortune. If you can join a gym, do it - it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, as I come back to work feeling refreshed and ready to go. Check with your manager to see if you get a reduced or subsidised membership before you sign up to anything.”
The workplace can be tough. However, if you're prepared to do a little forward-planning, steer clear of lunchtime decadence and be savvy when you're negotiating for a salary, you'll go far. Lots of workplaces will offer you the chance to learn and expand your skills while you're having fun and meeting new people - make sure you get the best of both worlds!
Image credits: Flickr, with thanks to llee_wu, Martin Terber, John Benson and Malcolm Manners