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Offices are like countries unto themselves, with their own citizens, customs, laws and language. Though you might not know what to expect, prepare yourself by keeping an open mind and being willing to learn. As with any other adventure, explore your new terrain respectfully and with caution, and -- especially in the beginning -- listen more than you speak.
To prepare for your new office job, brush up on your knowledge of the tools of the trade. To start, you’ll need to know how to operate a computer with Internet access and word processing software; you’ll probably also need to know how to use inter-office email, as well as a copy machine, scanner, fax machine, multi-line phone switchboard and voice mail. You should have a bit of experience troubleshooting these devices as well, such as eliminating paper jams, changing toner and ink, and updating software.
Office jobs thrive on routine. Depending on your role, getting to work on time may be a highly important function of your job. If so, being tardy could negatively affect your co-workers, customers and the flow of business overall. In the weeks before you begin your office job, make a habit of arriving early to your appointments. Also, start setting your morning alarm for the time you’ll have to get up once you start your new position, and practice getting up, dressing and leaving the house according to your new schedule. That way, when your job starts, you’ll already be used to the routine.
Take Notes / Ask Questions
Regardless of your education, tech savvy and education, each office has its own set of rules -- written and unwritten -- which may or not be plainly explained upon your arrival. Pay close attention to the company culture and customs, as well as policies and procedures. Ask your supervisors and colleagues relevant questions as they come to mind, and keep a small notebook handy to jot down notes. Read all manuals and training material provided, and study your notes at work and at home until you get the hang of things.
Dress the Part
Office jobs typically require you to wear business, or business casual attire. Find out the wardrobe requirements before your first day, and dress accordingly. Your clothes should be well-fitting (not too loose or too tight); you should also wear comfortable, yet professional shoes (no stilettos or gym shoes). Keep your makeup subtle, and your hair and nails neatly groomed; if you have them, check company policy on whether you need to remove conspicuous piercings or cover tattoos. Remember -- although you are an individual, when you work in an office, you also represent the company as a whole. If the two aspects clash, be ready to put your personal self on the shelf until after work.
Learn the Politics
Office environments tend to be political. Some people are openly allies or enemies, and others side with whomever they need to, whenever they need to, in order to accomplish personal or professional motives. Observe the the dynamic of inter-office relationships at your new job. Watch what’s brewing beneath the surface so you can navigate the waters, but don’t get involved. Don a cloak of neutrality -- learn how to listen without agreeing or disagreeing with what others say, and either politely excuse yourself from negative talk or find something positive to say. Don’t gossip, complain or spread rumors. Give all your colleagues equal appreciation and respect, no matter what you've heard about them. Learn how to keep your own counsel, and form your own opinions.
Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.
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