It’s that time of year again, when the panic of exams wears off only to be replaced by the fear of summer unemployment. If you’re lucky enough to find a job—good for you. If you’re lucky enough to find a job related to your chosen career path—I envy you. However, with every job comes a learning curve. Some lessons are self-explanatory; some just aren’t or are not obvious to any number of people for god only knows why. Some lessons you learn the hard way.
Last summer I learned several things working in an office. One being, I am too young to be working this hard in an office. So here are twenty other things you ought to know before you start that job as a Summer Student.
1. If you have a baby face you will get a lot of “So have you thought about where you might want to go to University?” Yes actually, the one I have been going to for the past few years seems to have fit my needs.
2. You will feel like you’re playing dress up for the first few days. Then you will become overly confident in your new found professional look. Then you will stop caring, because you realize you’re just a Summer Student and no one else cares.
3. It may be embarrassing to tell your friends you spent the day filing someone else’s work away—but making it rain like an immature idiot at the bar on Fridays sure feels nice. And hey, you didn’t have to deal with whiney retail customers all day making minimum wage, so enjoy those few paper cuts here and there.
4. You will find out the hard way that a 9-5 job only exists for people who don’t care. Work follows you home just like it did when you were in school. However, you don’t necessarily have the resources at home to get said work done. You spend countless hours when you should be sleeping trying to figure out if you put that order in correctly. Some days you will be in the office earlier and later than you expect. That’s life. Welcome to the real world.
5. No, you shouldn’t wear the same pants every day. But no, no one really notices if there’s a difference between the black dress pants you wore yesterday and the black dress pants you’re wearing today.
6. The lunchtime table groupings you may remember from your high school cafeteria still exist. Except Fridays, and Sales guys — those are reserved for out of the office ventures.
7. Practical jokes are not well received from Human Resources—but only if they get wind of them. Usually, they don’t, because people get bored sitting at a desk all day.
8. People will call you all kinds of things in an email, even though your electronic signature is at the bottom of the email they are responding to.
9. You will make some great professional relationships; make sure you to maintain them. Lasting impressions in a professional work environment are short lived, unless you’re absolutely terrible at your job. Keep in contact with people even after you leave.
10. Network. Network. Network. And fetch the right people coffee.
11. A “thank you” email, even if it doesn’t seem necessary, will go a long way. Especially if you’re dealing with suppliers.
12. Pick up the phone; things are resolved faster that way. Almost everyone forgets about emails they have already read, or will not be willing to search their inbox for it. Call them if you want something done quickly.
13. Be polite. Always. Always be polite.
14. On the first day, get to know the names and faces of all the big heads in the company. Especially the Director/CEO/President, you will run into them more than you think.
15. Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they need help with a project. Initiative may sometimes feel like you’re being pushy or annoying, but you will be let in on a lot of interesting projects if you ask if you can be involved. No one will know you want something until you ask for it.
16. Always bring extra snacks. The 3 P.M. crash is all too real.
17. People in offices loved anything baked, sweet or coffee related. Bring in that batch of muffins you just made, and make sure your team lead gets one.
18. Take notes when someone is explaining something to you. It may seem old school, but being able to flip through your notebook later to jog your memory will make you more confident in your job. It will also impress your bosses that you care and take the extra steps necessary to get the job done well.
19. Develop hobbies for your rare spare time. It is surprising how quickly a job encompasses all of your time and your life. Do yourself a favor and don’t get sucked into a lonely vortex, especially if your friends still work weekend jobs. Don’t let your job become your life. Not yet anyways.
20. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions, making mistakes. Everyone in the office knows that you won’t be the best. You’re a summer student, you’re there to learn—not turn the company into a Forbes 500. Even if they are a Forbes 500, they hired you as a student and will expect results from you within a range of someone who is still learning the ins and outs of the industry. So relax, enjoy and learn.