11 Things You Learn At Your First Real Job

Library of Congress
Library of Congress

1) You’re going to get paid a lot less than you think. By the time taxes, retirement funds, Social Security and whatever other miscellaneous dollars are all deleted from your overall paycheck, you’re lucky if you can still afford to pay the rent and make even one sample sale this month.

2) You’re not going to like all of your coworkers, but be nice anyway. You may even find yourself trying to compete with some of them. But just remember that the competition is all in your head. Try to learn from them. You know what they say — to squash the enemy just bring them closer.

3) Your boss might have hired you, but that doesn’t mean you’re her or his favorite person on earth. Difficult bosses are a real challenge, and learning how to deal with them is one of the hardest lessons to learn in the office place. Or, you know, if you just can’t deal, find a new job! But how do you know that your next boss won’t be the same?

4) Create new challenges for yourself when things start to feel staid and boring. You should never let yourself get bored at work.

5) People will throw stones at you if you bring in smelly food at lunch, especially if the work environment is a place that’s open to the public. Just stick with scent-less foods like salads, peanuts, hot water with lemon. I worked at an art gallery in SoHo and one time I brought in some French Fries and man did I get some serious high fashion side-eye for that! I was basically told to throw it away because even eating it would make me smell like a fried food-eating plebeian. Jesus.

6) People are going to gossip at you, but don’t ever gossip back. They will open up to you about how much they hate the boss or how Bettheny is a total bitch, or they might pursue other topics like their mortgage or the divorce settlement. But don’t offer up any personal info back! Just nod, smile and say “Wow.”

7) And speaking of gossip, don’t date someone at the office!! It’s tempting, yes, but just imagine how juicy and awkward the office place gossip about you is going to be if you break up?

8) Everybody knows you’re bluffing when you “call in sick.” It’s like that episode of 30 Rock where Liz Lemon goes out with the outrageously hot guy Grey (“The Hair”) and he invites her on a date to a midday movie and she’s like, I can’t do it, I have to work, and he’s all, Yes you can, just call in sick. Okay! So right as she’s doing it she runs into Jack, her boss, and he’s like, Lemon, you’re looking a little under the weather. Why don’t you take the day off?

9) It’s OK to ask questions, to say that you don’t know the answer, to ask for help. Better to do something the right way than thinking you’re hot and doing it wrong all by yourself.

10) The office refrigerator is not your personal refrigerator, but somebody is going to treat it as such.

11) Try not to be “that person” at the Holiday Office Party. This cheerful occasion is not the place for you to knock back the entire punch bowl, because then you’re prone to gossiping and saying things you shouldn’t be saying. It’s called a “party,” but it should really be called “Work — With Cocktails” because you’re still at the office. I know this seems obvious, but “that person” ALWAYS seems to show up.

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Author of How To Be A Pop Star.

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