Geek culture doesn’t always neatly translate to the corporate world. When you’re at the office, you can’t play video games, your attire choices are limited, and most meetings won’t provide you with an opportunity to discuss your favorite Game of Thrones fan theories.
If you’re entering the professional world for the first time, the environment can be intimidating, but fortunately, there are some simple, easy-to-follow tips that can help you survive those first few months.
Tips for Surviving the Corporate World
Try using these tips to make it in a professional environment:
- Learn and conform to the brand culture. During the interview process, try to get a feel for the brand culture you can expect from this company, as every company is going to be slightly different. Is this a place where formality is key, with strict dress codes and utmost professionalism in employee communications? Or is this place more laid-back, with casual attire and loose, informal conversations as the norm? Keep a low profile for your first week or two, until you get a feel for the culture in more depth. When you have a good understanding, try to assimilate to that culture; the earliest stages of your career aren’t the best places to stand out as a nonconformist.
- Find the right software and tools for the job. Next, do what you can to find the right software and tech tools to help you with the job. For example, if you’re in inventory management, a cost-efficient platform like Sellbrite can simultaneously make your job easier and save your employer money. If these platforms aren’t currently being used, or if you feel an upgrade could lead to an improvement, try to prove the potential value by calculating how much time a new platform would save against how much it would cost your employer. That’s a good way to make a strong impression early on.
- Limit time on your personal devices. Millennials get a bad reputation for being obsessed with their smartphones, so don’t play into the stereotype. It’s perfectly fine to have your own personal devices in a business environment (at least, in most businesses), but don’t use them frequently throughout the day, even if other people seem to be. Keep your focus on your work as much as possible.
- Bond with your coworkers. Your coworkers will make or break your experience, so go out of your way to bond with them. Bonding with your coworkers, including your bosses, will make it easier to communicate with them, and will make the office more enjoyable for everyone. Find something to connect with them about—for example, you might talk about parenthood, or about your favorite bars in the area, or about how much you hate finding a parking spot in the morning. These small connections go further than you might realize.
- Pay close attention in meetings. Unfortunately, many meetings end up being a waste of time, but you should still take them seriously. Your bosses and coworkers will be watching you, and how you react could solidify their impression of you for years to come. If you twiddle your thumbs, space out, or play on your tablet during a meeting, your coworkers will assume you aren’t invested in the company. Instead, lean in, contribute whatever you can to the conversation, and take detailed notes that you can reference later.
- Meet as many people as possible. Up to 85 percent of all jobs are filled by networking. The bigger your professional network is, the better your chances of future success will be. More contacts mean more future opportunities, and more people to call in for help when you invariably run into challenges in the present. Take every opportunity you have to meet new people, commit their names to memory, and add them to your rolodex of contacts. Networking events are a must for young professionals, so get used to shaking hands and making small talk.
- Prove your value. Hopefully, your work will speak for itself—but you can’t rely on that being the case. If you want to demonstrate your value to your bosses, you’ll need to prove it. Keep track of your progress on specific projects, including statistics like how much money you’ve saved, or how efficiently you can work. Show your employers you’re worth having around.
Every Experience Is Different
Remember that every professional experience is going to be different. Your industry, your company, your boss, and your coworkers will all collectively shape your experience, so it’s impossible to make baseline recommendations that apply to everyone. The best thing you can do is keep an open mind, remaining as professional as possible until you know how to respond to your surroundings.