17 October, 2016

The first office job

It’s October already which means Christmas decorations will soon start appearing… plus it’s the end of lectures for Trimester 2 meaning final assignments and exams are kicking in. It’s a stressful time all round and I know that procrastination is so easy…

I was speaking to a couple of students last week who want to stay in the university bubble for as long as they can (I remember that feeling well) however, short of becoming a professional student, you will all be exiting at some point. For those that are finishing university after exams, taking the step from full time student to full time employee (for longer than a summer) can be scary and challenging, especially if you are going into an office environment for the first time. I run a workshop called Backpack to Briefcase which focuses on making the transition into an office environment so given the time of year I thought it would be helpful if I shared a couple of tips.

Get to know the business
If you’re going to be working for a large organisation it can be easy to work in a vacuum. Be interested in the business as a whole and understand what they are trying to achieve, who the clients/stakeholders are and what the priorities are as it will all inform your work. Check out the website as a starting point and when you start your new job access any intranet sites and information on organisational structure.

Office etiquette and professionalism
If you haven’t watched The Office – there is a UK and US version – there are lots of cringe worthy behaviours there from the boss so don’t model him! Office etiquette and professionalism is about conducting yourself respectfully and courteously in the workplace. These days a lot of people operate in an open plan office which throws up a whole host of things to consider such as: being aware of the volume of your voice; paying attention when someone enters your work space; eating your lunch away from your desk and asking before borrowing something. Being professional also includes being on time for work and meetings; finding out what’s appropriate for checking your personal email, phone and social media; knowing the dress code; holding yourself accountable; being reliable and not gossiping.

Communication
Employers generally express confidence in a graduates’ ability to take skills gained at university and apply them in a new setting but…be aware of your phone manner and your email etiquette. Regardless of whether it’s a landline or cell phone, get comfortable with answering and forwarding calls and leaving voicemail messages, something most of us are out of practice with given the ability to text. Email is the most common form of written communication in business but a 2013 survey found that it has caused tension, confusion, or other negative consequences for 64% of working professionals. Checking the tone of your message, spelling and learning how to use Cc and Bcc are good things to start with.

Business Jargon
Just like you had to learn university jargon such as ‘points’, ‘200 level’ ‘blackboard’ you will have to learn some business jargon too. Your job description will have already alerted you to some terminology that you may not be familiar with but even common words can throw us if we haven’t used them before in a business sense e.g. Action item – a documented event, task, activity, or action that needs to take place.

Time, information and self-management
We will all have our own techniques for managing this but figure out what these are – whether it’s a to do list on paper or the computer, scheduling important tasks when you’re most efficient, learning how to manage distractions, dealing with procrastination – so you can work smarter not harder.

Here are some other useful links:
www.mindtools.com Check out the ‘Toolkit’ for more information (articles and videos) on communication skills, team work, time management and more

https://www.livecareer.com/quintessential/first-days-working

https://viccareers.com/2015/06/15/anxiety-and-your-new-job/

https://viccareers.com/2015/05/25/first-graduate-job-how-not-to-annoy-your-new-colleagues-2/

http://www.savethestudent.org/student-jobs/how-to-act-in-your-first-graduate-job.html

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