Love, Life Stories

7 survival tips for your first office job

There’s something about your first office job that seems very official and somewhat scary.

There’s something about your first office job that seems very official and somewhat scary. Like, “Congratulations, somehow you’ve graduated from the restaurant or at-home freelance job to working in an actual office. Like actual adults do.” Which is totally ridiculous, because there are plenty of vital jobs where you can be a professional and not work in an office very much or even at all. Yet somehow it still feels like a big deal.

So in honor of having spent way too little time in an office to actually pass judgement, here are a few observations that are more first impressions than anything else.

1. Offices are so much nicer than I thought.

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I don’t really know what I was basing this off, other than glimpses of TV shows or movies. But somehow I had the impression that offices were miserable spaces with harsh florescent light. And I’m sure some are. But some can open up into a large space, in which several people work and there is lots of natural light, as was the case with my office. This made for a lot better atmosphere than I had initially (and somewhat irrationally) feared.

2. Carry floss. Seriously.

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It’s not the same as at college, where you can get away with eating at the dining hall and then going straight to class, because you’re surrounded by other students and not likely to be the center of attention (unless you volunteer to be). You never know what might happen when you’re expected to eat lunch in a space and then look professional afterwards, so mints and floss are a good idea.

3. You’re allowed to relax (once in a while).

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As someone who is way too into tea I was a bit worried about going without it for a whole day. Luckily, I found I didn’t have to. There was an office stash of tea that provided some intriguing new options for me to try. This really helped me to relax when I needed it.

4. Having a good office friend makes all the difference…

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When I came into the office and met my fellow intern I was immediately glad to have someone my age to work with. But then we hit a little wrinkle in our plan to work together. “Oh, that computer doesn’t work,” one of the tech people said as I went to sit down. “Only those do,” he said, pointing to two computers diagonally across from each other in the clump of four intern desks. I prepared to move, but my fellow intern took charge.  I’ll move over there too.”

I’m so glad she did. Not that we ever talk to the point of being unproductive, but it’s nice to be able to quietly celebrate when you successfully make a call, or ask a quick question when you need to.

5. …but walls can be really, really thin.

That being said, the office definitely isn’t private. At one point my editor had to use one of the computers across from us. The other intern and I were working on something together, and I realized I didn’t know if we needed photographs too. I turned to my neighbor and said “Do you think we should ask if we should get photographs?” Only to have my boss answer from the other side of the desk “I don’t mean to eavesdrop, but yes…” Saved us the trouble of having to ask the same question twice, but also – yikes!

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Luckily our boss doesn’t seem to sit near us often, but point taken that open desks leave no privacy.

6. People understand how you want to get outside.

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Although it can seem kind of intimidating to be in one building and one room for hours at a stretch, the good thing is that everyone is probably feeling the itch to get out a little bit. I’ve walked in only to see that two of the women I worked with were standing outside for no reason I could see.

Our boss also told us that he didn’t mind if we took lunch breaks outside of the office. It seems to me that even in a pretty nice office people understand that it can be suffocating to be in the same place every day.

7. Trust me, don’t get stuck doing one thing for too long.

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One of the things that seemed to help with getting through a long day was having multiple tasks to get through. That way you can switch up what you’re focusing on, and also change up what you’re doing a little bit. If one task involves making a few phone calls, while the other is mostly looking online, juggling the two may make the day less monotonous.

  • Grace Ballenger

    Grace Ballenger is currently pursuing a BA at Wellesley College where she studies English and Spanish. One of her (too many) goals this summer is to make the list of musicals she wants to listen to shorter.