A Handy Guide to Navigating the Workplace When You’re “Green.”
So, you’ve got the job. The interview went fairly smooth (aside from that one moment where you laughed at that joke from your new boss that wasn’t meant to be a joke) and now you’re about to walk into the first day of the rest of your life. It’s not like this is your first job ever, but it is the first job that required your newly acquired degree to get in the door. You feel totally prepared, right? After all, you did just go to school for four or so years for what you’ve been hired for… just kidding. No one is 100% prepared for the first job of their career. No amount of school without real-life experience is going to equip you for everything when you’re first starting out, but this guide will walk you through some basic skills to help you stand out among a sea of other fresh-faced first-timers.
1) Ask questions.
I cannot stress this enough. Ask. Questions. They may seem stupid… they may be stupid. But you’ll look a lot dumber asking them after you’ve already been on the job for a few months than you do when you first start. Everyone already knows you’re essentially equivalent to a newborn at this stage.
People are going to be way more helpful and understanding right now than they will be later down the line. This is your opportunity to ask for help, insights, dos and don’ts. This isn’t to say that you need to be bothering your boss every five minutes with silly asks about easily Googleable questions. Doing so will have the opposite effect of positively standing out.
Use your discretion as to what constitutes a necessary vs. unnecessary question. If it seems like your boss is becoming exasperated, lay off for the day. Write your questions down and take some time to decide if this is information you can find yourself. One of my higher-ups during an advertising internship HATED questions of any type. It didn’t matter if it was pertinent information or not. I learned to work around this. I began to bring questions to those around me whenever possible, before having to go in to get yelled at or lectured for asking about necessary information.
Others on your team and those around you can be great resources. You can take the initiative to schedule time to sit down and discuss anything you’re wondering about with teammates if you’re in a similar situation to what I was in, or you just want additional insights.
2) Figure out your workplace persona.
This will depend on your industry and particular workplace because some are more casual than others. If you’re in the financial sector, chances are that those around you will be more buttoned-up, so you’ll need to craft your persona with more professionality. If you’re at an agency in an advertising career, most likely the attitudes of your peers will be more relaxed and “say what you want.” (At least when you aren’t around any clients.)
There is a balance you need to strike between being overly rigid and too casual. Ultimately, you want to be a professional version of yourself. Everyone will have different issues to focus on for this category. You may normally have a very “extra” and over-the-top personality. If that’s the case, you’ll need to tone it down some. Nobody likes the person taking over every conversation whenever they walk into the break room. Conversely, if you’re a very shy person, work to try and get out of your comfort zone. There is no issue with being quiet, but being too inside your own head can come off as standoffish and hurt the image you project to others even if you don’t mean anything by it. Keep in mind that your coworkers are coworkers first and friends second while you’re at the office. That’s not to say you aren’t able to joke around and have fun with them, but you do need to keep in mind that you are in a professional setting and that getting carried away or stepping over the line in terms of appropriateness can directly affect your career.
This isn’t college anymore. This is an advertising agency. Or a classroom. Or a hospital. Wherever you are, office or not, this is a professional setting where work is executed. Take cues from those in positions above you. Observe how others act and how their actions are received and use this as a guide for your own behavior. Everywhere is different, so this is subjective.
3) Lean in.
Be ready for anything. If a volunteer opportunity comes up that you think you can handle, then volunteer. If your boss needs notes taken for a meeting they can’t attend, offer to take notes for them before asked. Let your passion shine through. After all, there is a reason you chose this career path over other options. Use this passion to propel yourself forward and motivate you, especially on days that aren’t going your way. Like Confucius said, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Although we all know this is BS, the overall sentiment holds true. If you enjoy the work you’re doing and immerse yourself in it, you’ll be happier and others will take notice as well. And when you’re spending almost half of your waking hours at work, it doesn’t hurt to take joy in what you’re accomplishing and have others enjoy being around you as a result.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of everything you should do when you’re first starting out. These are just a few easy skills anyone can hone that will greatly improve your life, your career, and how you’re perceived by your coworkers when you’re the greenest in the bunch.
Interested in working at Citrus? Drop us a line or ask us a question … just be sure it’s not something you could have asked Google.