Office etiquette for the young and wide eyed

Starting an office job for the first time can be fraught. Unless you follow our simple guide, that is

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The Independent Online

Arriving at your first job after university is equal parts fear and adrenaline. Whether you’re starting a graduate trainee programme, or embarking on that junior role you’ve had your eye on, settling into the culture of your office is a tricky manoeuvre to master.

Sometimes the experience of being around adults in a serious industry setting can be overwhelming and everything can become an issue, from what to wear on your first day, to contributing ideas in team brainstorms. As a young person thrust into a grown up business environment, how can you be heard when it feels like everyone else is shouting?

Mind your (body) language

First impressions count, and with the average person making up their mind about you within seconds, it’s important to make an impact that is good rather than one that leaves a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. When communicating, body language is just as important as the words you are saying, so make sure you maintain eye contact and avoid closed body language such as crossed arms. Be aware of your responses as many facial movements can be misconstrued as gurning. Finally, make sure you smile – especially when on the phone. Believe it or not, people can ‘hear’ a smile.

Don’t force the banter

When starting out, unless you’re lucky and got a hook-up of some sort, you won’t know anybody in the office. When you’re not particularly close to a colleague, any sort of mockery/teasing/repartee could be misconstrued. Most times, you will only cause offence, confusion or if you’re really unlucky, a trip to HR.

Learn how to manage your time

Time management can be one of the most difficult things to master when transitioning from the mollycoddled setting of formal education to the cutthroat world of work. It’s important to have systems in place to help you cope before you end up drowning in a sea of deadlines. It sounds like teaching somebody how to suck eggs, but the importance of to making do lists, asking for clarification on deadlines and learning (quickly) how long it takes to complete a task can stand you in good stead early on. The first few weeks of a fresh graduate starting in an office tend to be when colleagues are softer on you, but keep missing deadlines and eventually, collected patience will wear thin.

Don’t be too eager

Is it too obvious to state that bringing in presents for people will not do you any favours? Expect sniggers behind your back if you ignore this tip.

Stay professional

You will find politics in every office – in fact politics will be found in any area of work. When arriving in your new role, it’s important to bear in mind that there will be a variety of personalities, and you may be walking into a very difficult phase in people’s relationships. You will not know which dramas you’re about to walk into, but avoid getting involved in any gossiping or giving your opinions on co-workers. Equally, don’t be the source of any office gossip by getting into relationships early on or being the first one out of the door when it hits 5pm.

Don’t give up

You’ve made the cut, and the office job is a reality. Your employer must have liked you, so make sure you stay positive and get stuck in. Sometimes it may seem like you’re doing a few easy tasks at the start, but you’re most probably being eased into the role. Learn everything and soak it all up like a sponge. Before you know it you’ll be swamped with work and wish that you took more time to read around your field of work or appreciate the quiet days.

I've been in my job for nearly a year. That’s more than the gestation period of a human being, and I think that's enough time to be a thought leader in the graduate newbie survival space.