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

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.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Life and Style
Baroness Lane-Fox warned that large companies such as have become so powerful that governments and regulators are left behind
techTech giants have left governments and regulators behind
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin visits her 1990s work ‘My Bed’ at Tate Britain in London, where it is back on display from today
artsBut how does the iconic work stand up, 16 years on?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Structural Engineer

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Structural Engineer ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Sales Executive

£18 - 24k OTE + Uncapped Commission: Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Executive ...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant - IT Channel - Graduate

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a Value-Added I...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor