Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ten Things They Never Taught You in School But you Gotta Know in Order to Survive on the Job

Most new parents I know say that can't believe the hospital just let them walk out with their newborn child. The panic sets in as they realize there is no owner's manual to accompany such a momentous event in their lives.

The same could be true of the workplace. Sure, some attend years and years of school, but nothing really prepares you for what the workplace is truly like.

That's why I've put together this list. Tuck it in your pocket. Post it on your refrigerator. E-mail it to yourself. Just don't forget these lessons that you need to know when you work for living:

1. Learn to read upside down.

2. Always carry two pens.

3. Never talk about bodily functions at work. This includes hormones, flatulence and constipation. Only share those events with someone related to you by blood or marriage.

4. Clean up after yourself. Maids work at the Hilton, not your office.

5. Hold the door. The smallest niceties often have the greatest impact.

6. Just because someone is lower than you on the company totem pole doesn't mean they can't retaliate if you wrong them.

7. If you keep up only with your industry or job, you'll be royally screwed when you're booted from both.

8. You are replaceable. Ten people could fill your job tomorrow, and a couple of them are within a few feet of you.

9. Look out the window. Taking your nose away from the grindstone often brings about the greatest insight, clarity and creativity.

10. Be careful of anyone who takes your side in an argument. Their commiseration can cause you to say things you'll come to regret.

What else do we need to know to survive in the workplace?


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Anonymous said...

A corollary to number 10. Be very, very, very careful who you trust.

Mike Buckley

Karen Putz said...

PMS is not a good topic around the watercooler.


Anonymous said...

Anita -
Great advice! I've been blogging this week about tips for transitioning into a new job and longer-term strategies for success.

Some additional ideas from today's post:

Start trying to figure out who is in charge. You may be surprised where the real power is in your new workplace. Maybe the receptionist holds a lot of authority. Who seems to make the decisions? The quicker you learn, the better off you’ll be.

Ask questions, but keep your opinions to yourself.

Volunteer to help. Be a hero - offer to do a job no one else wants to do. There’s no better way to win friends and influence people than by stepping up to the plate. An added benefit? If you wind up solving a big problem, your ability to influence the workplace goes way up!

Miriam Salpeter
Keppie Careers

Anita said...

You said it. How many times do we get burned by someone we considered a)not a threat or b)someone we thought was a friend?
Thanks for adding to the list.

Yep...and that made me think of another one:
Never discuss your medications. "I'm off my Zoloft" is not a good thing to announce in a meeting or around the water cooler. Thanks for posting!

Anita said...

Great suggestions, as always!
Someone once told me that when it comes time for a decision to be made in a meeting, watch and see who everyone looks at. That person is often the one with the "real" power. I thought that was a great insight.
Love your idea for volunteering, as well. Who is more valuable than a "troubleshooter"? Great way to gain influence.
Thanks for posting.

Terry Starbucker said...

Hi Anita. Here's a few more:

1) Seinfeld lines don't work at staff meetings. Try "It's gold, Jerry, it's gold" and see what I mean.
2) You can continue your karaoke career at the workplace (this one really surprised me)
3)A candy dish on your desk is like catnip for those you need to get a face to face with. Caramels especially.

Hope all is well, and all the best!

Anita said...

Hilarious! Oh, those are so good. I guess you'd want to yank that candy jar away when someone walks by that you DON'T want to stop and chat....
I am well and hope you are the same!

Anonymous said...

Never bring fish leftovers to work to heat up in the microwave for lunch. You will gross out everyone on in the building.

Anita said...

YUUUCK. That also makes me think: don't eat that stinky stuff at your desk (or anything similar with a strong smell) and be sure and deposit it in lunchroom trash...not the one at your desk.
Thanks for bringing this up!

Anonymous said...

I forgot where I stole that from:
1.Your job is to help your boss to do their job better.

Personal experience:
2. Talk to your manager/boss, don't avoid or ignore him/her.

3. Don't eat a big lunch.
I learn that the hard way, trying so hard not to fall asleep on a 1pm meeting of 5 people in the first week on my first job.

Anita said...

Those are 3 good ones...I can especially relate to not eating a big lunch. I learned that on my first job also!(Maybe that's when I got into eating M&Ms about 3 p.m. every day...another bad habit.)
Thanks for adding to the list.

Anonymous said...

Don't try and cover your mistakes. As hard as it is, it is better to admit it than for the mistake to be discovered later.

Be kind to your co-workers and friendly to everyone, including the Receptionist.

Anita said...

I SO agree with your mistakes suggestion...if you don't go ahead and admit it, then you can't get past it. And, if you don't admit it, you'll never learn anything from it. So, it's a waste of energy from every standpoint.
And, we all learn sooner or later that it's often the people without the big titles that wield the real power...the receptionist, the office manager, etc. They're the ones who really make things run, right?
Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

I want to echo the comment about stepping away from the computer. In fact, I think it's a good idea to not bring your lunch at least once a week. Getting out of the office (and I mean physically leaving the building, not just eating at your desk), can do wonders for your creativity, stress levels, and health.

Anita said...

If I were a boss, I would worry about someone who could never seem to get away from the computer, even for lunch. I would worry about the lack of balance -- was this person working so inefficiently they couldn't even take 30 minutes? Were they isolating themselves from other workers and not making that face-to-face contact? I think it's important to get away to de-stress and recharge, but also to send the message that you're in control enough to do that.
Thanks for a great suggestion.

Anonymous said...

through few more! as these days every one forgot all these..i have already shared this with facebook!
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