How to act in your first graduate job
Getting a your first professional job or even just a summer job can feel like a big leap into the real world. Regular hours, presentable hair and no time for an afternoon nap can be hard on those accustomed to a student lifestyle (forgive us if we’re being presumptuous).
Alongside the lifestyle change come other concerns. How should you act at work? How formal should you be with your co-workers? How should you dress appropriately? How should you talk to your boss? How many questions can you ask without getting on someone’s nerves?!
Well have no fear because Save the Student! is here to calm your nerves and answer some of those baffling questions about work etiquette and how to act at work.
If you’ve got yourself a full-time or summer job, then firstly congratulations! Secondly, don’t panic. If someone has considered you employable then you are clearly capable and know how to conduct yourself.
The transition from uni into employment isn’t as hard as you might think. Skills such as timekeeping, working with potentially difficult people, meeting deadlines, and communicating with those in charge are all things you’ve coped with at uni (as your CV and covering letter should boldly boast). So bear this in mind and read on to learn how to make starting your first professional job nice and simple.
How to act at work
How you should act at work involves a lot more than turning up and doing your job. By acting in a professional manner, you could make your job much easier and more enjoyable, whilst getting some brownie points from your boss.
(If you were looking for “how to act like you are working” then there is a ton of advice on the web. Not that we are condoning this!)
How to act around co-workers
Making some acquaintances and even good friends at work is extremely important in order to make you feel comfortable and be productive at work.
Working environments can be strange and challenging, they turn some people back into high school gossip queens. It may sound obvious, but avoid this. Taking sides and spreading gossip may make you popular with some, but other colleagues will see right through this and begin to distrust you.
Avoiding gossip comes alongside being discreet, if you are asked to work on something confidential by your boss then don’t tell your colleagues for the sake of gossip. You could lose the trust of your boss and the chance to work on further big projects.
When it comes to making friends at uni, a cutting edge wit and channel 4-style sense of humour usually does the trick. However for the office it needs to be toned down.
Unnecessary references to race, religion, gender, or any personal criticism of your co-workers should be avoided, no matter how funny it may seem.
Regardless of how friendly you are with your colleagues, showing support and respect for all of them is essential. If a co-worker requires your help, be sure to offer what support you can. Gaining the trust and respect of your co-workers not only allows you to be an all round good egg, but it proves to your boss that your are a well-liked and trustworthy employee.
Working with others
Your job may involve a lot of collaborative work and this gives you the chance to prove how easy you are to work with. When presenting a piece of collaborative work, don’t take credit for something your co-worker did and ensure to give credit where it is due. This shows honesty and appreciation for others, which works more to your advantage than taking credit for something you didn’t do and getting found out.
If you are dealing with a tricky colleague on a group project, then be prepared to negotiate. If a colleague is insisting on something you think is a bad idea, then you can’t ignore this. Don’t say you will use their idea and then abandon it as this shows inconsistency and ignorance.
If you are having a disagreement with a co-worker then don’t make this the big news in the office. Try and resolve your differences on a one to one basis, and don’t get petty no matter how crazy someone makes you!
How to act around your boss/superiors
The independent living and answering only to yourself you did at uni may make you reluctant to respond to anyone. But remember, your boss now has a significant say in your life. By getting on well with your boss, you can ensure your working life is at least tolerable, and your home life isn’t impacted too much by work.
When starting work, you should be given an outline of what is expected of you by your boss or other superior. It is essential that you get the most out of this and ask as much as you can about your job role. By knowing exactly what your boss wants from you, you can work on achieving this and make an impression by doing more than is expected of you.
Always try to have something to say around your boss. You want to make an impression and show you have some confidence around them. When in meetings, try and contribute a new idea so that you make a positive contribution.
Try and have something more sociable to say to your boss too. Not that you need to become a teacher’s pet and get him/her birthday presents, but you should take an interest in their family or social life and ask how their holiday went or how their kids are (they are people too).
How to behave professionally
As well as dealing with your workload, getting along with colleagues, and acting appropriately around the boss, there are some lesser details involved in behaving professionally at work.
It can be tempting to show off when starting your new job. Getting on with your task quickly, and barely asking questions may show independence but it is not useful in the long run. Your colleagues and superiors know you are new and will be prepared for a slow start and a barrage of questions. Make sure you take advantage of this.
Take your time on new tasks and make sure fully understand them so that you know how to tackle them in the future. You may also feel that you are asking too many questions, but your superiors would rather you ask then blindly get on with your work. Just make sure you are asking the right people, your superior is best to ask about important parts of your job, but a co-worker can easily tell you how the photocopier works.
Just don’t be scared to ask questions!
Adding your colleagues on Facebook?
Now this is a tough one, to friend or not to friend? The answer is really dependent on how professional your behaviour appears on Facebook. There are many horror stories regarding those who added their colleagues, only to have pictures of them partying in Moulin Rouge fancy dress on a school night plastered all over the office.
Not to mention those in trouble over their ill-advised “My boss is a (insert obscenity)” status updates. So basically, try to avoid adding colleagues and especially your boss on Facebook.
There are some who will be offended but you simply have to say you prefer to keep your private and professional life separate.
But if you really must add your colleagues on Facebook, do so with great caution. Be sure to get your head around Facebook’s ridiculously complex privacy settings and be prepared to monitor what you post. Those who have spent all their uni life avoiding their parents on Facebook should be able to handle this.
Writing an internal email
Emails between colleagues can be much more informal than external emails, but still be wary. Many companies are able to view and keep a record of every single email that has been sent between staff, even if you’ve deleted it from your inbox. Don’t let this make you overly paranoid, you can still be friendly and sociable to your co-workers via email but avoid writing anything you wouldn’t want anyone else to read. Particularly a cheeky bitch and moan about your boss.
Formal language isn’t always necessary in internal emails, but still be as clear as you would be face to face. Emails don’t always require an immediate response, but if you want to reply quickly a good idea is to simply send a message saying you have read the email, but you are a bit busy and will get back to them later.
How to speak professionally at work
Your unique north of the border terms or quirky Cockney rhyming slang may have been something of an icebreaker when starting uni. Unfortunately, when starting your first job you want to rein it in and speak more professionally.
Not that you have to start talking in the Queen’s English, but try and use a more formal tone than you would outside of work. Remain courteous and respectful, and avoid using expletives, no matter who you’re talking to.
How to dress appropriately for work
How to dress appropriately for work is difficult because the appropriate attire can vary from workplace to workplace. More creative roles such as IT or marketing can be fairly informal, whereas accountancy, law, and office roles can still require a full suit.
Take a look around at your interview and check what kind of thing people are wearing. It doesn’t hurt to send a quick email asking about formality levels before you start. If you’re still unsure, dress pretty formally and you can always tone it down.
Office casual/smart casual office wear
Your employer might tell you that the dress code is office casual or smart casual office wear. Generally, mid length skirts and dresses, short sleeve shirts without a tie or polo shirts are all acceptable. As long as you avoid jeans and trainers and your clothes are neat and ironed then you should tick the smart casual box.
While policies on visible tattoos are generally becoming more relaxed, if an employee asks for no visible tattoos, be sure to keep them covered.
Professional business clothing
Your workplace may ask you wear professional business clothing. The standard clothing for a professional business environment is a full suit and tie for men and a suit jacket, with trousers or a knee-length skirt or dress, a shirt or blouse and conservative shoes for women.
Some companies may ask you to wear a tie. This could make your work wardrobe a bit pricey, but if you invest in good quality trousers and a jacket, they should last a while. You can then team these with more affordable shirts or blouses.
Some companies may have a dress down Friday which involves wearing fairly informal clothing in a poor attempt at giving you that Friday feeling. While this may give you the chance to revert to your comfy and casual student self, you should still be slightly wary.
Avoid a full on grunge look, anything that would be acceptable at the beach, or an outfit you would wear for a night out drinking. Clean and fitted jeans, comfy shoes, t-shirts (without offensive slogans), or casual shirts are all generally acceptable on dress-down Fridays.
Hopefully we’ve shown that the transition from uni to the workplace isn’t so scary. By following these tips, you should know how to act in your first Graduate Job and fit in easily in your new work place.
If you’re just brushing up on your work etiquette but haven’t found yourself a graduate job yet, be sure to check out the best Graduate Training Schemes, Graduate Scheme deadlines, and our 10 smarter ways to find a job.
Also, you may want to read this article once more to refresh your professional behaviour before attending one of those infamous office parties!