Let’s face it: there are some pretty unflattering stereotypes about students and recent graduates out there. Far too many employers complain that you’re lazy, entitled and too busy focusing on your social lives to get any real work done.
While that may hold true for some, the reality is that many of you can work quickly, have high expectations for your own careers and have learned how to integrate social communication into your work life.
But let’s be real – you still have to get along with your boss and co-workers, who may be much older than you, right? Check these basic etiquette guidelines against your own on-the-job behaviour and adjust accordingly:
Technology can be an incredible tool that helps you get your work done better and faster, but it also has some drawbacks. Don’t make these tech faux-pas when you’re launching your career:
Keep your phone out of sight
Whether you realize it or not, every time your phone rings, pings, buzzes or flashes, you’re getting distracted from your work and your co-workers are too. And yes, your boss probably notices how often you pick up your phone to read and respond to texts. Unless you need it to do your job, turn your phone off and put it in your purse, pocket or desk drawer until your next break.
Take those buds out of your ears
As a student, you may have gotten used to doing everything from studying to sleeping with music pumping into your ears, but unless it’s already the norm at your workplace, don’t isolate yourself from your co-workers by keeping your headphones on all day long.
Minimize personal activities
After years of checking Facebook, Instagram and Twitter multiple times an hour, you might experience some withdrawals at work. While many workplaces have these social networks and other “personal” sites blocked, you may still have access at yours depending on the nature of the organization. You don’t want your boss to think you spend your whole day on Facebook, so stay disciplined by only allowing yourself personal web time on breaks or outside of work.
Further to this, don’t save personal files on your work computer. You never know when you’ll be asked to switch workstations, upgrade hardware or, unfortunately, fired, so play it safe by keeping your computer work-only.
Don’t post about work online (unless it’s part of your job)
Check with your boss to find out what you can post – and what you shouldn’t – in regard to your job. Many companies have social media policies that you should follow closely. A good rule of thumb, however, is to never post anything that is considered private or confidential, and never complain about your job, co-workers or boss on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, etc. You might think it’s just between you and your friends, but you never know who can see what – or who will send what to your boss – so it’s best to just avoid posting these types of comments at all.
Co-workers and managers
Having strong relationships with your co-workers, managers and senior leaders at your new employer will help you learn more and, hopefully, result in opportunities for advancement.
Try to avoid the super-casual wave or “hey” – stand up, make eye contact and give the other person’s hand a brief but firm squeeze. For more detailed instructions about handshakes, read our article about how to give the perfect handshake.
Be friendly, but not too friendly
Smile, say hello and be as friendly as you possibly can, especially when you’re new (and even if you think someone is annoying). Your co-workers and managers will be more likely to want to spend time with you, help you when you need it, and provide additional professional development, such as mentoring, if you make an effort to be friendly with them. It’s a win-win!
Being interested in your co-workers’ lives is a good way to build rapport, but be cautious of getting a little too friendly. Keep it on a professional level – avoid asking for or divulging too many personal details, and keep physical contact to handshakes.
Don’t leave everything to the last minute and wait until your boss or co-workers are chasing you down for your work. Respond to calls and emails within one business day, or sooner, and always submit your work on deadline (or earlier, if possible).
Food and drinks
Food, drinks and the mess they bring can be a huge source of anxiety and stress in the workplace where people from many cultures and who are at various stages of their lives come together. Follow these guidelines to make sure you’re not labelled the office slob, lunch-stealer or inappropriate drinker:
Only eat your own food
It may go without saying, but you’d be surprised to discover how many delicious lunches, snacks and drinks go missing from the office refrigerator. Find ways to identify your food, such as by using labels or a certain type of container, to ensure you’re not eating a co-worker’s food by accident.
Keep it clean
Don’t rely on the building’s janitor (or your co-workers) to clean up after you. Do your own dishes right away, sweep crumbs into the trash and avoid keeping open food at your desk, or prepare for passive-aggressive notes to begin appearing around the office. Besides, you probably don’t want to share your desk with the mice and insects that may be attracted to the bits and pieces of food hidden around your cubicle.
Watch how much you drink
When your new employer provides free alcoholic beverages in the office, at lunch or during special events and you’re nervous because you’re the new kid on the block, it can be challenging to limit how much you drink. Drink slowly, alternate alcoholic beverages with water and stop drinking when you start to “feel it” to ensure you are drinking responsibly.
And, of course, don’t drink and drive – take public transit or call a taxi and pick up your car the next day.