21 Things You Need to Know Before Your First Day

This spring and summer, new college grads will flood offices all over the country. And for those of you entering your first real “office job”—whether in marketing or otherwise—I have some advice. Sure, you may have read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but I’m talking about the real day-to-day things that might take you a little bit to figure out (and could even save you some embarrassment).

1. Ask questions if something seems off.
Maybe there’s a Snapchat campaign that the client wants to do and you (as a cool, youthful expert) just know it’s not going to work or doesn’t make sense. Speak up. Always politely and respectfully, but always say something if a job/approach/tactic isn’t strategic. Offer another approach or a tweak that could help solve the problem.

2. Raise your hand to help out.

Hear about a new business prospect or an initiative that has you feeling jazzed? Let someone know and volunteer to help out. They’ll appreciate your passion and you might earn yourself some more responsibility. Plus, you do your best work when it’s on a subject that you’re interested in.

3. Make your strengths and relevant interests known.
Perhaps you mentioned your photography abilities at your interview, but don’t assume they remember or that the info was relayed to the greater team. Or maybe you’re a yoga enthusiast. Guess who they’re going to ask to help out on the Yolanda’s Yoga Mats RFP?

4. Send polite emails.

You never know how they could be perceived, and it’s easy to attach attitude or make up an undertone you didn’t intend. Read it over before you hit send, and make sure nothing can be misinterpreted. If it could, perhaps a phone call would be better. And try to avoid negative emails complaining, making fun or being petty… the “Forward” button can be your worst enemy, even if it’s by accident, and you never want those things documented in writing.

5. Use “Reply All” sparingly.
Really think about if it’s necessary. It’s probably not. When responding to a large email or an all-company email, triple-check you’re not sending “OMG!” back to 300 people.

6. Long emails suck.

If your email stretches into three paragraphs or more, a phone call or quick meeting is probably preferable. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

7. Don’t be afraid of face-to-face interactions.
I know this goes against what your my generation believes in. But picking up the phone or swinging by someone’s desk is often so much more productive than going back and forth with five emails. Especially if there’s a disagreement or you need a quick answer or it’s going to involve input from multiple people. (Nothing worse than getting six different emails with six different directions.)

8. Be nice to everyone!
The interns. The cleaners. Everyone. Smile. Say “Hi.” Sincerely ask how their weekend was. First, you’re just being a decent human being, but you also never know who they could become. That intern could become your client in a few years. The cleaner could be the boss’s family.

9. Don’t only socialize with coworkers your own age.

Some of my closest work friends have been closer to my parents’ age. Chat, go to lunch; don’t only stick with people you could have been in high school with. Expand your circle, and don’t hang solely with people in your “clique.”

10. Make your own judgments.
If Jenny tells you that Sally is difficult to work with or Joe doesn’t know what he’s doing, try not to put a mark on their record. See for yourself. Know that it might be Jenny who is in fact the terrible one. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt and a clean slate.

11. Go to events.
Company baseball game? Happy Hour? An industry expert giving a talk? GO. It shows you appreciate the company and your coworkers, have a positive attitude, and want to continue to learn. It’s noticed.

12. Don’t get shnockered at said work events.

You don’t want to slip up and say or do something that will make you feel embarrassed to come in the next day or brand you with a nickname like “Lemon Drop Lexi.”

13. Don’t cook broccoli or seafood in the microwave.

14. If you take the last of the coffee, make more (if you want live).

15. Keep your damn phone in your damn pocket.

A quick time check or an urgent text is okay (I suppose), but just chatting with a friend is not. Neither is scrolling through your Instagram feed during a meeting.

16. Take notes by hand.
It’s a fact that you’ll remember them better and it’s less distracting than typing. And don’t sit back because you think someone else is taking notes. They may focus on different things that apply to their responsibilities or not capture something you thought was an important point. Plus, who knows, they may just be jotting down their grocery list.

17. Proofread.

And then proof it again once it’s printed out. And always double-check event dates on a calendar.

18. Do things to make your boss’s life easier.

19. Don’t eat and drink while you walk the halls.
Just wait until you get to your desk to enjoy it, I’m telling ya. You will inevitably start choking on your water or run into the President right after you take a bite of your pizza and have to do an awkward half-smile with a mouth full of cheese instead of saying “Hi,” with actual words.

20. Don’t blame, complain or compare.

21. It’s okay to say:
“How do I…?”
“I’m not familiar with…”
“Can you clarify what this means?”
and “I don’t know.”

But follow that up with “I’ll look into it and find out.” Don’t sit through an entire meeting wondering what some cryptic acronym like SYGAOJ means. Ask. It shows that you’re engaged, and I bet there’s at least one other person who had the same question you did. (It stands for So You Got an Office Job, by the way.)

There are a million more things to learn about client service, working as a team, taking initiative and bringing your best self to work—but I have to cut this off somewhere. And geez—learn some things for yourself! You Millennials are so needy!

Now, go forth and do great things for the world, my readers! Good luck!