Don't Cry At Work (And Other Lessons)

I have very few complaints about my first job out of college. But if I had to do it all again, I wish someone had given me the following advice:

1. Find an office with more men. If you’re looking to kill two birds with one stone—earning your keep in society while also meeting someone who will pay for your movie tickets—you should probably count up the number of men at your prospective place of employment. 

If you can count them on two hands, move on. Preferably to an engineering firm.

2. If you don’t know anything about Excel, don’t say you’re “proficient.” If you list this as one of your “special skills,” expect that you will be hired for that very reason. Also expect that you will be deemed the “Excel expert” in an office of 250 people, and that your colleagues will be encouraged to ask for your help whenever they have a question.

And then expect to do a lot of frantic Google searching for things such as, “How do I create an extra row in Excel?”

3. Be more discreet when taking leftovers from the kitchen. I’m a normal human being, so naturally, I love free food. But if you work on the 6th floor and the kitchen is on the 8th floor, don’t make the journey from the former to the latter every 20 minutes in search of a stray pastry puff. 

Go at noon and 3:30 every day and be done with it. 

4. Don’t cry when you resign—it’s weird. Seriously, just lock it up.

The advice doesn’t stop there, however. In addition to the pearls of wisdom above, there are a few other strategies that new—and even more especially—first-time employees can use to earn accolades.

Your first job is not only about showing that you can get the job done, writes Thorin Klosowski at Lifehacker. After the thrill of the hire and the trial of negotiation, the actual day-to-day routine of staff relations gets underway. Employees need all of the connections and tricks of the trade that they can get so that they can develop from the beginning. Consider this:

1. Relish the gruntwork. “This means showing off your work ethic even when doing tasks you don’t like,” Klosowski says. “Chances are, for most, you’ll need to clean the proverbial toilet for a while before you’re given any advanced responsibility.”

If you’re asked to clean the actual toilet, you may want to speak with HR.

2. Be on point at all points. It’s all about those little trust-building details that will be foundational to your working relationships and your personal in-office brand: You need to always be on time (or early) and make all your deadlines, enabled by the subtle art of organization. Keeping your desk and work areas clean—literally and metaphorically—will signal that you’re dependable.

3. Get to know the people. Meet everyone. Have lunch. Make friends. Form bonds. Gain trust.

Ask questions (but don’t overburden your high-up with a lot of questions). The best thing you can do for yourself is to get the job done right the first time. If it’s a longer project, Klosowski recommends checking in via progress reports with your boss.

That means more time with your supervisor, less time trolling the kitchen for leftover bagels.

For more, check out Management Insider in the May issue of units Magazine, which mails today.