Fast Track: Corporate strategies: the inside track on becoming a consum mate professional

4. New labourer, new danger ... Your first day in the job
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The Independent Culture
Recall, if you will, your first day at primary school. You wet yourself during verse two of "All Things Bright And Beautiful". You had your hair pulled by a gang of delinquent five-year-olds, already seasoned experts at extorting dinner money with menaces. You arrived home to discover a large sign on your back reading "Kick Me Pleeze".

Fortunately - your first day at work will not be like this. Your first day in a new job will be far from easy, though. You may well be subjected to some kind of bizarre "Initiation Ritual". This is a degrading task which you only ever need perform once, purely for the amusement of fellow workers. Examples: being stripped naked and smeared with toner fluid, turning up on time, answering the phone in a polite and friendly tone of voice.

Follow these simple rules, though, and your first day might not be your last.

Dress appropriately: Unlike at parties, it is not considered bad form to arrive wearing the same outfit as a fellow employee. Your new position may require a uniform. This is generally the point at which you find out that "Head of Promotions" actually entails dressing up in a Cheery Charlie Chicken outfit and handing out fast-food leaflets in the Arndale Centre. Other professions, too, have an accepted dress code:

City Stockbroker - Dark suit (with vertical white lines). Flared nostrils (with horizontal white lines).

Nurse - Nurse's uniform.

High Court Judge - Gown, wig, optional Zimmer frame.

High Court Judge in privacy of own chambers - Nurse's uniform.

Richard Branson - Horrible woolly jumper.

Do not park in your boss's space: Particularly not if your boss's car is already there. Only disregard this advice if you are beginning work as a chauffeur.

Find out about your company before you start: There are two ways to accomplish this - the first is by going into Companies House and consulting the relevant documentation. The second, and far more reliable way, is by going into the staff toilets and consulting the wall.

Learn your way around the workplace: Many offices have a thing that stands in the corner and dispenses coffee and tea. This may well transpire to be you.

Should you be given an office all to yourself - you are either (i) well-up the corporate hierarchy, or (ii) suffering chronic BO. Both are ideal reasons for your new colleagues to dislike you.

If your new office has gleaming, mirrored walls, a plush carpet, automatic slidey doors and a little plaque with your name on it, you have definitely done well for yourself. If, however, your office has gleaming, mirrored walls, a plush carpet, automatic slidey doors and a little plaque with "Max Capacity 12 Persons" on it, you are still standing in the lift. GET OUT.

Meet your colleagues: Make it clear who you are from the outset. There is nothing worse than turning up for work as Director of Sales and being mistaken for the cleaning lady/delivery boy. (You will know if this is the case, because your new workmates will treat you with far greater respect).

There is always one person in every office who is the butt of workmates' jokes, and generally regarded as a bit of a tosser by everyone from the deputy junior post boy's assistant upwards. This, too, will probably also transpire to be you.

Observe office etiquette: DO NOT eat on the job, unless you are a food taster for Marks and Spencer. DO NOT engage in pushing, shoving, ducking, diving, heavy petting or fooling around in the deep end. DO NOT report for duty accompanied by your mother, your security blanket or your collection of lucky gonks. Above all, DO NOT ask what happened to your predecessor, particularly if there is still fresh blood on the mouse mat.

Know your place: Useful clues as to an employee's status can be found by looking at the photos on their desk, viz:

Temp - Photo of Brad Pitt/Ewan McGregor.

Security guard - Photo of suspected Mardi Gra (sic) blackmailer.

Junior colleague: Heartwarming photo of spouse and/or children (single employees may substitute photocopy of own genitalia from Christmas party).

Canteen worker: Photo of mouthwatering meal, bearing no relation to the glutinous glop being ladled onto your plate.

Middle manager: Photo of ex-spouse and/or adulterous lover.

Tele-worker: No desk, grainy photo of self hunched over desk in "home office" and connected via video-conferencing facility.

Senior colleague: Photo of self receiving Employee of the Year award. May bear disturbing similarity to photo of Mardi Gra blackmailer.

Richard Branson: Photo of Richard Branson.

You can easily identify your company chairman by what is on his desk. This will be either his feet, a junior employee's testicles on a spike, or a hastily scribbled memo saying, "Gone to lunch, back soon after next millennium."

Personalise your office: You have no doubt been provided with a wall- mounted year planner. Use this to spend the first 12 months of your contract rearranging little coloured stickers to denote precisely what project you would be working on, were you not busy rearranging little coloured stickers on your wall-mounted year planner.

Every office wall should, in addition, display at least one of the following: an amusing newspaper cutting referring to individual with same name as the boss (eg Randy Reg Is Five Times A Night Man); a Post-it note displaying employee's secret computer password; a motivational picture of whale; or a sign saying "You Don't Have To Be Mad To Work Here But It Helps" (unless workplace is Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital, or British Beef Marketing Commission).

Adjust your gas-lift chair: Unquestionably this is the most daunting challenge you will face during your entire career. It is a little-known fact that many "suicides" involving defenestration from the 15th floor are merely result from accidentally touching "Lever (A) which should be fully depressed and rotated clockwise to raise height of seat". Gas-lift chairs are currently being considered as a more reliable alternative to elevators, for propelling employees to the higher floors of office blocks.

One last thing: If you get home after your first day at work realising that you've wound up in a job where all your co-workers have got it in for you, you keep getting picked on, you've no responsibility whatsoever, the bloke sitting next to you hates your guts because you got the job HE wanted - and no matter how hard you try, you just can't get to grips with all the new computer technology ... well, look on the bright side. At least your wife Cherie still loves you. By the way, there's a sign on your back. It says "Kick Me Pleeze".

Debbie Barham

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