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How to succeed in your first office job

by Craig Boyle

So, you’ve landed your first role. Well done! That feeling of being hired into your first corporate role is an exciting, and oftentimes a little overwhelming time. You’ll have lots of energy to channel into your new role, and just as many questions. To help you get started and to go in feeling confident, we’ve put together this guide to surviving your first office role!

Office jobs come with their own specific responsibilities, expected behaviours, and codes of practice. To get off to a great start, you need to take all of this into account. This, in turn, helps you to understand how you should act so you can stand out from the crowd in the best possible light. Here are our top tips for succeeding your first office job. Don’t worry, with our help, you’ve got this!

Dress correctly, not smartly

Office dress codes vary considerably from place to place. The formal suit you wear to interview is often not the same sort of style you’ll be wearing in the office. ‘Smart casual’ can mean many different things. A good idea is to call your new boss, HR manager or check your contract for the dress code to get a feel for what to wear. In general, you’re best off dressing smarter than you would for a day out in town but less formally than you would at an event like a wedding.

Some general tips include:

  • Even if your office is a jeans and t-shirt place, don’t wear anything that could be deemed offensive. Slogan t-shirts are often easy to misconstrue.
  • Avoid sports shirts, which are overly casual in any setting.
  • If in doubt, neutral tones such as grey, black, blue and white are good options.
  • Even if the office is formal, wearing a full suit and tie or a dress with suit jacket may be overdressing. It’s always best to establish exactly what level of dress is appropriate – although overdressing is often better than underdressing in your first few days.
  • Observe the dress code when at the premises for an interview.

Reliability is key

A simple, effective and time-honoured way to get ahead at work is to simply show up on time each day. This may sound simple, but just this simple action alone will make a big difference. Show your seniors that you can be reliable, and they’ll begin to trust you with more responsibility. When you are set tasks, do your best to carry them out quickly and don’t let them fall by the wayside.

Take notes the old-fashioned way

While new young workers are generally adept at most forms of technology, and could easily use tools such as Evernote, often it’s better to tick to physical notes to help you stay organised. In meetings, jot down general notes and outline actions for yourself. Create a basic to-do list to refer to every day, which will allow you to stay on top of your tasks.

Prepare a toolkit

Sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day can be draining. If you prepare ahead, you can make things a little easier by packing things that make your day easier – such as healthy snacks, first aid supplies and practical items such as deodorant, earphones etc. You can also prepare lunches in advance to save on the cost of buying lunch out.

Work hard, but take breaks

Most office roles are desk-based, which means spending a long time in front of a computer. While you might find yourself tempted to stay in front of your station as much as possible, afraid to take breaks in case it looks like you’re slacking, it’s important to take breaks. Staring at the screen too long can lead to headaches and fatigue. Breaks can be anything from a simple trip to refill your water bottle to looking away from your computer for a few minutes.

Physical breaks are important too, don’t forget to stand up and move around from time to time. Nobody wants to seize up at work and have a lifetime of chronic pain because they sit rigidly for hours and hours. Stretch at your desk and walk around a little at lunch, your body will thank you for it.

Get to know your boss

Managers are all unique, with various leadership styles and personalities that will influence how they work in a team and how they expect you to work. Many bosses will be more hands-on and will want you to follow their lead closely, while others will give you more free reign – preferring you to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. It may take a few days to work out what style they are – or you can just ask them directly.

Communicate appropriately

Office communication can quickly trip a newcomer up. Your colleagues may talk to you in a way that seems very similar to how your friends talk – but you should always maintain a level of professional respect. It’s generally best to keep heated issues off the table, and to speak to colleagues with respect and positivity.

When communicating with anyone senior, or to customers, you must maintain a professional stance. Don’t use overly informal language, don’t be inappropriate and try your best to get your spelling and grammar right.

Never be afraid to ask questions, but only if you can’t find the answers easily somewhere else. If you’re in a meeting, wait until there’s a gap in a conversation so you don’t interrupt anyone.

Finally, don’t gossip. Don’t say something about a co-worker you wouldn’t say to their face. It may end up getting back to them, or become a legitimate issue with HR.

Be social

Don’t worry if you don’t make friends at work immediately, it can take time. With so many constraints on how freely you can communicate, it can be tough to work out who you’ll fit in with.

Remember, a work friend doesn’t have to necessarily be someone you’d be friends with outside of work – but just having someone to talk to is a big boost to your mental health and will help the day go by.

To start establishing friendships, take people up on offers to go for lunch – or even ask if you can join them. The worst they can say is no, and you’ll be in the same position you were in before you asked. Make an effort to attend team and company events, but always remember that these are still work-related, so avoid embarrassment by not consuming too much alcohol.
That’s it – you’re now ready to take on your first office job. Head in with confidence and a smile on your face. Your new career is just beginning, so take some time to appreciate your achievement and look forward to the future. From all of us here at Open Colleges, good luck.



Get ready for office life

If you’d like to enter the business world and embrace an office job, discover a range of Business and Management courses you can study online.

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