Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ten #worklife Tips

A bit of a different post from me, but I wanted to dive into some general life experience content- to share from what I have learned over the years through successes and of course, some fails. It is shocking to think how I bumbled my way through those first jobs and internships! I am hoping this post might be helpful to avoid such blunders or just validation that you are on the right path. Feel free to share your work tips in the comments! And in no particular (and probably a confusing) order, are ten tips for #worklife.

1. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
This one took me a long time to get over. I was afraid if I asked something it would seem like I didn't know what I was doing or that I wasn't paying attention. In fact, it's the very opposite. Asking well-defined, thoughtful questions demonstrates understanding and prevents your assumptions from leading you down a wrong direction. This reminds me of The Office episode when Jim didn't ask Charles to clarify what a 'rundown' was-he spent all day guessing at it and by the end of the day, made no progress. Just ask! I especially made this mistake when I was new to #officelife. You would be surprised how many terms are industry/company/department specific.

2.  Try things yourself first.
Perhaps this feels contradictory to number one. I promise it's not, though it can be hard to find a balance. It actually is part of being able to ask well-thought out questions. It can seem easier to just ask your boss the answer to something, but your boss is busy-that's why they are the boss. Do some background research and try to understand the problem, some proposed solutions, and ask questions from there.

3. Maintain your own style.
It can be difficult to feel like yourself in work wear. My first few jobs were in a lab environment as a student, so it was perfectly acceptable to 'jeans & tees' it. When I started my working in an office in New York City, I struggled to keep my identity in business casual, fluctuating between too stuffy and too trendy. Now, I have to say, I am quite proud of my assortment of work attire. I found my style. It truly does make a difference in your confidence to not lose your identity for 40 hours a week. My go-to's are black or gray pencil skirts or straight-legged trousers with a printed blouse or sweater and good pointy-toed flat. It doesn't have to be expensive or boring to find items you love.

4.  Make connections.
Oh no, not networking. I would cringe at the term. I swear it really doesn't have to be fake or phony. The goal isn't to make strangers do favours for you. It's to maintain contact and positive thoughts between people you already know. Send your internship adviser a 'Thank You' and update. Ask a professor if they are working on any projects you could join. You never know what doors might open up in the future. This type of interaction is exactly how I came to be where I am, and I am the most networking reluctant, shy, introverted, non-self-promoting person there is. This article was a good read on the topic.

5. BYO Supplies
This tip might just be a personal quirk of mine, but I like my pens. And my calendars. And my pencil cup. And my mouse. I pretty much have a brand, make, & model preference for all things stationery. Now, don't go opening up a personal Staples at your desk the first day-but bringing the tools you know you prefer can make those long work days easier. I've also had my cube set-up be a good ice breaker for new colleagues. I recommend keeping it purely functional for a while and really pay attention to the culture. It can leave a weird impression to have your cube look like a dorm room in a sea of blank white walls.

6. Pay attention to the culture.
I never realized how varying different workplaces can be until I had a few different experiences. Like the above "cube decor" example, it's important to gauge your workplace. From those non-work, but still work events, such as Do people eat at their desk, eat out? Do people wear headphones? Does everyone say 'Hello' and 'Goodbye' on their way in and out? to work-related instances-For a quick question, is email, phone, or stop by preferred? Who tends to speak in meetings and are these discussions formal or informal? How does my role and department fit in with the organization as a whole? Watch for these sometimes subtle demonstrations of culture. I know I didn't even think about it at all when applying for my first jobs and now it's something I carefully evaluate.

7. Take Advantage of Benefits.
When I started at my first full-time job, it was a bit overwhelming to go through all the forms and make so many decisions. At 23, it was 1. Weird to think of saving for retirement and 2. Morbid to write beneficiaries in case of my death. Still, it's important to learn the language and make informed decisions. Retirement, health insurance, health savings accounts, pre-tax transit-and I'm sure many of you have 'cool' jobs with an array of perks. Follow tips 1 & 2 to solidify your options-it can be more difficult (or impossible-until year end) to change your mind.

8. Read Ask A Manager.
I am a bit obsessed with this site. Whether you are currently in the midst of a job hunt, new the office or working in general, or just need some entertainment, this advice site has it all. The advice is super practical and the comment section is actually quite valuable with individuals sharping their experiences from a spectrum of industries with their own norms and quirks.

9. Update Your Supervisor. 
Whether that's to let them know you need to schedule a vacation or you need help prioritizing competing demands. Don't be the one to not call-out when sick or miss a deadline because you were afraid to speak up. I know I have been guilty in the past of those acts, but it's not a sink or swim situation-you aren't an island. Your boss wants to know how to help-they have a boss too (or a board or shareholders).  This also goes for sharing your achievements-ways you have streamlined a system, documents you created to train a process. Don't be afraid to discuss things like raises, promotions, or stretch projects you would like to be a part of.

10. Always Be Learning
It can be easy to fall into a catatonic schedule. Work, home, work, home-repeat indefinitely. But don't lose sight of what you want to accomplish or where you hope to be. Yes, there are some aspects of the 'paying your dues' mentality in the working world. You shouldn't expect a promotion after 3 months at a job or in some fields, 3 years, but you can be learning and developing the skills needed for future opportunities. A lot of training might even be available through your workplace. One of my favourite sites for learning new skills is Coursera. They have so many different topics, and you can learn a lot of practical skills. Courses vary in prerequisite skill level and how much time commitment is needed, but everything is free so feel free to add and drop whatever you fancy. Even if a course isn't for you, read industry websites and articles to keep up with your field. So much changes quickly, especially with regards to software and other technology-stay ahead of the curve.

What are some of your workplace tips?


  1. Loved reading this! Great tips!

    God bless,