Monday, July 28, 2014

Advice I Wish I Received Before Entering the Professional Workforce

This summer, many kids have started their first full-time jobs. They look so cute and optimistic on the subway and carrying those Panera or Chipotle bags back to their desks during their lunch hours. They still, with great earnestness, use the term “lunch hour.”

When I began my first 9-to-5 office job, my parents and other mentors gave me stellar tips on how to navigate the new terrain. Here’s some of what they didn’t convey:

*If you microwave popcorn in the floor kitchen, it’ll stink up most of the floor for at least 20 minutes. People will follow the scent to your work station and expect you to share.

*Be very afraid when someone asks whether you’re a team player.

*Street smarts beat book smarts.

*Ignore any list of how much $$ the rest of your “team” makes, even if it’s perched atop a fax machine you’re about to use. It will only infuriate you. 

*Nepotism is alive and well, beating out street smarts and book smarts. 

*Every time you stay at a five-star hotel on an all-expenses-paid business trip, leave a cash tip for the housekeepers.   

*When a team member has massively pissed you off, don’t take deep breaths – take a walk. A brisk one. Around the block. A few times, if necessary. Swing those arms. It does wonders.  

*Many high-functioning alcoholics and cokeheads are lit during the workday. When that manic colleague with perpetually dilated pupils claims all the shallow sniffing (in the middle of January) is due to a pollen allergy, let skepticism get the better of you. 

*Use up all of your paid vacation and personal days.

*Aside from the beach, when it’s above 90 degrees and humid on a weekday, there are few spots more comfortable than an over-air-conditioned office. Savor it, and just smile and nod when You-Know-Who blames the latest round of sniffing on that frosty air. 


  1. Roving Retorter, this is a great posting. And every word of it is so, so true. Let me add an addendum to your words of wisdom on nepotism trumping both street smarts and book smarts: never, never make your PERMANENT bed with a small, family-owned company. You are never, ever going to be the one to rise to the tippy-top. And be wary of long-term promises in this situation, such as "I have no children, so you can inherit the business." At the reading of the will, the name of some long-lost nephew will invariably pop up.

  2. I'm always afraid when someone asks me if I'm a team player.