Starting a new job is much like learning back-to-school rules
FARGO - So I just started a new job. And I gotta tell you: It's like first grade all over again. Seriously. I have held many jobs, which means I've experienced many first days in a workplace. And it all boils down to this: Adapt or die. Whether y...
FARGO - So I just started a new job.
And I gotta tell you: It’s like first grade all over again.
Seriously. I have held many jobs, which means I’ve experienced many first days in a workplace. And it all boils down to this: Adapt or die.
Whether you’re learning to raise your hand to answer a question or how to avoid non-confrontational body language in the board room, it’s all the same thing. Even in “creative,” “entrepreneurial” environments, you are expected to follow invisible, unwritten rules of entrepreneurship and creativity. You’ve got to learn to play the game in order to thrive.
In short, your first days at work will usually feel like the first grade. That means you will still find it really important to figure out how to work, communicate and eat. Other important considerations for the workplace newbie:
-- The basic rules. Is casual chatting OK? Is this an earphones culture? Do you come and go as you please, or do you need to alert the hall monitor?
Early on, you’ll want to know the location of the cafeteria (the vending machines). You will need to know who Mr. Belding (the top boss) is, so you aren’t caught monkeying around in the halls. You will have to learn the policy on recess (Facebook). And you definitely will want to know where they’ve put the bathrooms (the bathrooms).
-- The clothes. Is the environment finance-industry formal, tech-company informal or – most confusing of all – “business casual”?
One of the favorite things about my last job was that it was an all-jeans environment. The only problem with this is that I completely let my “big girl” wardrobe deteriorate.
Now that I’ve returned to a dressier workplace, I find myself scrambling for grown-up clothes. Do I really own just one pair of black pants? Can I wear my nightshirt under my blazer and call it a “peplum”? If the rule is “no open-toed shoes,” can I still wear Crocs?
-- The cool kids. You will want to survey the workscape for potential best friends, while keeping an eye out for possible Nellie Olsons. This is really important, especially if you are a social animal like me.
You will also want to be politically savvy with those who can make your day easier. For instance, stay on good terms with the secretary who hands out hall passes (the HR person), the lunch lady (the head of accounting) and the guy who keeps track of the overhead projectors (the IT department).
-- The lexicon. As most of my former career had been in newsrooms, I was unfamiliar with the popular vocabulary of the modern business world. In one workplace, the jargon (job-gon?) was so thick that I sometimes felt as out of place as a vegetarian in a slaughterhouse.
For instance, I quickly learned that “risk averse” was a bad thing and “disruptive” was a good thing. I learned to talk about my “bandwidth” when referring to my workload, which implied I was some sort of lightning-fast super-android instead of an inefficient human who liked to take coffee breaks.
Likewise, my new job involves mastery of incredibly long and complex acronyms, which were avoided like the plague when I lived in the no-jargon environment of a newspaper.
Oh well, you know what they say.
“If You Can’t Beat ’Em, Join ’Em.”
By Tammy Swift, Forum News Service.
Swift writes for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. Reach her at email@example.com