10 Office Survival Skills Every Student Should Know
Whether you’re starting your first job or entering a new position, navigating the workplace can be tough. The first weeks of employment are often spent adjusting to your new surroundings and understanding your coworkers, and it helps you have a set of office survival skills that you can depend on and grow from.
It’s also important to navigate any hurdles that come along with starting a new job, like learning how to network with co-workers or figuring out office politics. First impressions are everything in the workplace, so here are some strategies for starting off on the right foot. In this article, we give you some basic skills to help with all of this no matter what company you are working for.
1. Start With a Positive Attitude
Positivity comes a lot easier at the front of your career than it does in the middle. Eventually, you can make it through to a place where you’re truly satisfied with your career while balancing with realistic expectations. At first, not so much.
There is the danger of having too high of expectations at first. You think everything is going to go your way and that you’ll take the world by storm. This quickly gets checked by menial jobs and working in the trenches for relatively low pay until a better opportunity comes along.
But no matter what the ups and downs are, you can control your attitude about things. It’s an important office survival skill to be aware of this from the outset. Adopt a mantra that will help center you when things start to feel like they’re not going according to plan.
2. Be Honest and Consistent
Honesty is important when it comes to the office, but think about how you deliver that honesty to your colleagues. Don’t be intentionally deceitful, but don’t feel like you have to voice every opinion that you feel.
In fact, it’s a good idea to keep many of your feelings and values to yourself, at least until you learn the lay of the land. Consistency is also key. Deal with people and situations fairly, and that will start getting noticed by the right people.
3. Be Genuine
Fake it till you make it, is one saying we’re not fans of around here. That’s because it’s pretty easy to tell when someone is not being genuine with you. Eventually, they will let their true colors show.
You don’t have to be “in your face” with anything and everything you think. But you shouldn’t be the type of person who goes along to get along either.
That will cause others not to trust you. It will also make you miserable and you’ll quickly be looking for another job as a result.
4. Pay Attention to Office Etiquette
Every office is different. Some have more permissive policies and behaviors while others are rigid and sensitive. That’s why it is a good idea to reserve the side of yourself you show at work until you have the rules of office etiquette down for your particular employer.
We live in an age of heightened sensitivities. Be mindful of others as you’re doing your work. Remember, you’re not there for a vacation. You’re there to work. Stay focused on that while learning the nuances.
If people emphasize chain of command, for example, don’t try to go around someone with an idea. At the same time, document everything so it’s clear where the ideas came from.
5. Know Where to Draw the Line
It’s a good idea to have a “Yes, I can” attitude. That is, be willing and ready to take on everything that your boss wants you to do. But do know there’s a line and that you should do your best never to cross it.
By that, we mean don’t push yourself past certain limits if those limits are way over your head. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take on new projects, but be sure that you can back it up. Never over-promise and under-deliver for your bosses.
6. Commit to Continuing Education
Employees who want to better themselves do two things that are very important to their office survival skills. They ingratiate themselves to the powers that be, for starters. Managers see in them someone they can trust, and that trust leads to more opportunities.
Secondly, employees take on new skill sets that make them more in-demand and worthy of higher pay, whether at the existing company or to another. You essentially beef up your resume when you embrace continuing education, sometimes without even realizing it.
7. Fix Your Morning Ritual
Want to be your most productive at work? Then have a morning ritual (or start-of-shift ritual if you work during another time) to “prime” you for the day.
Simple, productive habits such as five-minute journals, reviewing the previous day’s to-do list to build a new one, or picking up in the middle of a project’s stopping point from the previous day are all good ways to start out. Have some time to pull together your thoughts and prioritize the day’s demands.
8. Take Breaks
Sitting for too long is harmful to your productivity and your health. Yet, when you work in an office, there often isn’t the time, space, or equipment to promote a more active work life.
That’s why you need to get up, walk around, and enjoy your breaks every hour or two. Your body needs to stretch and work out any of the kinks that come with prolonged sitting. You need to work off some of those calories to keep from gaining unhealthy weight. And your brain requires a recharge.
9. Change It Up
Ritual is important to getting into your most productive self, but don’t be afraid to let inspiration take over and sideline your routines. For example, let’s say you know exactly what you need to do. You have a project that simply can’t wait any longer to finish up.
Don’t waste time by planning your day when you are ready, willing, and able to get started. Change things up by jumping right into the work. Then, when you’re finished or at a stopping point, you can always come back to the ritual and plan out the rest of the day.
In short, follow the ritual as a way to start your engine. But if your engine is already started, let it ride!
10. Fight the Urge to Explain
This last entry on our list of office survival skills is an important one because many of us aren’t used to doing it. By “fight the urge to explain,” we mean to explain yourself when you do something wrong. Your boss doesn’t want to know the why of your poor handling of something. They just want to know that it won’t happen again.
You’re far better off, in a career capacity, to ditch the explanations. A simple, “Sorry, my mistake,” will suffice. (At least, it will suffice if you learn from the mistake.)
These Office Survival Skills Will Set You on the Right Path
We hope these 10 office survival skills will give you a better idea of what to expect and how to act at your first job. Some are instinctual, but some really do take years of trial-and-error if you aren’t aware of them upfront.
Good luck as you enter the workforce! Now it’s your turn. What are some office survival skills we should have mentioned here? Sound off in the comments section below.
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