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First Job - Transition into the World of Work

 

Everyone has had the social studies class where young people go through right-of-passage rituals for being inducted into the adult world. Branding, beating, lion hunting, piercing, walking on coals, wilderness survival, its all there. Lots of fear and pain, but worth it because of the feeling of accomplishment and respect that comes from being welcomed into the adult world.

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Into the Wild. In our society the main right of passage into adulthood is holding a job outside the home. No branding or piercing, but it can still feel like a trip into the wilderness. You are on your own for the first time in a setting where you have responsibilities, but mom can’t swoop in and call your teacher or coach or friend’s mom to make everything right. It can feel scary at first, but just like the lion hunters, when you succeed, it comes with an incredible feeling of freedom, accomplishment, and self-confidence.

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Kids vs Adults. To successfully transition into the world of work, it is helpful to first think for a moment about some of the things that distinguish kids from adults. Kids can be messy and dirty. They don’t take good care of things (especially if the things aren’t theirs). They don’t listen or remember what they’re told. They tell a lot of fibs and love passing on rumors as fact. They will say just about anything to get out of being in trouble. And frequently, they do the very first thing that pops into their heads without considering alternatives or consequences. There’s a reason kids need babysitters, and a reason drivers stop for balls rolling across the street, they know a kid will probably be right behind it without thinking first to stop and look.

So the first step in a successful transition into the world of work, is simply recognizing that there are kid things that we have all done (and maybe still do) that are perfectly normal and even expected of us as kids, but that are off limits in the adult workplace. In the adult workplace it is expected and assumed that everyone has the maturity and self-control to be fair and truthful and to think before they act.

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Time & Money. Another understanding needed for happiness in the workplace is an awareness of why organizations focus so much on saving time and money. This emphasis on money can seem silly, petty, or even craven to young people from happy homes. But there is an important reason for it that you'll need to understand if you want to be happy in the world of work.

Lets say an organization pays out $1 million for everything it buys, and brings in $1,100,000 from everything it sells. That extra $100,000 left over is very very important. It can be used to pay people more, or get nicer offices closer to where people live, or buy more stuff, or do more or make more of whatever the organization does, or pay the owners or banks back for the loans or risks they have taken.

Now imagine if the organization can reduce what it pays out next year by just a fraction, say 10%, just one dollar out of 10. This might be easy to do just by shopping more carefully, or making other minor changes that would barely be noticed. But this small 10% change has just reduced overall costs by $100,000 and doubled the money left over at year end from $100,000 to $200,000. Ask your parents what it would be like to have their earnings doubled. Its a very big deal and can be life changing for organizations large or small and for the people who work there. This understanding that small changes in costs and productivity can make big changes in money available to do the things organizations want to do, is essential to understanding why organizations do what they do, and for getting along happily and successfully within them. This 5th grade math exercise is as true for the wealthiest companies and foundations as it is for the smallest burger stand. It explains both the success of startups like Amazon that turn into giant organizations, as well as the thousands of Tictok posts by young people who can't understand why every single place they go to work seem like such cheapskates.  

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Transitioning into the World of Work: Attitude, Demeanor, Workplace Culture

A. How to look at things (Attitude):

People can look at the same thing in dramatically different ways. Let’s say you’re out on the football field right after the championship win, and people are yelling and screaming and pushing and climbing over each other to get selfies with the players, and you yourself might think this is the most fun and excitement you’ve ever had in your life. Someone else, however, might be absolutely terrified and see this as the most scary and upsetting experience they have ever had. Same exact place, same exact situation, but two completely different ways of looking at it and experiencing it.

Ever seen a Tough Mudder competition, where people crawl through the mud and slither through pipes and run carrying heavy awkward loads? That’s worse treatment than in a third world prison camp. But people do Mudder races for fun and for the challenge of it. 

So one essential thing you learn as an adult, is that how you look at something has more to do with your liking or hating it than what is actually going on in the experience itself. This life changing idea that you are in control of how you look at things is called “attitude” and it is why seem to adults harp on it all the time, and it is why young people with fewer life experiences frequently have no idea what they are talking about.  

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When it comes to Attitude there are some built-in obstacles that young people need to overcome in order to graduate out of a kid’s way of looking at things.
 

1) Rebellion. Kids spend their entire lives being told what to do. They live in a prison of rules. And when your life is spent walled in by rules, it feels like victory to escape. It feels empowering, and fun and exciting, and other kids may even look up to you for your courage in getting away with something outside the rules. 

There’s just one problem with this normal young person feeling of wanting freedom from rules in the workplace. It is not compatible with personal safety or with personal or financial success in the adult world of work. A large and essential part of the adult world of work is being able to channel this natural desire for freedom from rules and free expression into the aspects of work and personal life that allow and encourage it.

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2) Criticism and Evaluation. Another thing that many young people have in common is they are surrounded by people telling them things that might not necessarily be true in order to avoid hurting their feelings. You’re so smart, or pretty, or strong, or good at this or that, are things we hear all the time - from family and friends. But let’s face it, a kid could have a foot growing out of their head and play video games 12 hours a day, and moms and grandparents are still going to say they're the cutest thing ever and such a hard worker. That’s mom’s right? And a lot of times its friends and teachers too - in the young person world.

In the workplace, however, it’s not the same. When you start your first job, quite possibly for the first time in your life, you have people in charge of you who don’t know you personally or necessarily care about you or your feelings. And in the workplace, it is the job of supervisors to evaluate and critique their employees. This means it is their job to talk to you, and to talk about you - behind your back so to speak. This judgment aspect of the adult workplace can be jarring for young people coming from happy homes and supportive friends who view someone talking trash about them behind their backs as the ultimate affront.

The natural kid reaction to criticism is anger and wanting payback or revenge in some way. But being able to accept the fact that it is the job of workplace supervisors to evaluate you, to talk about you, and to criticize you, is one of the major transitions between adolescence and the adult world of work. And if you look at it the right way you will even find it liberating. Do you remember the Truman Show movie with Jim Carry growing up in a made for TV town? Every single person in the fake town was giving him fake praise and just wanting to make him happy and take care of him. He could never get an honest answer out of anyone about anything. Everyone was just patronizing him and the fakeness of it all was driving him crazy. His greatest victory at the end of the movie was when he escapes out into the real world.

Just like the Truman show, going to work for the first time can be like going from a protective blanket - to freedom. People might tell you what they really actually think, but if you look at it the right way it feels like victory, like you’ve escaped from a smothering protective blanket.

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3) Pecking Order and the Career Ladder. Another hard thing for young people to get used to in the adult workplace is the basic concept that the newest and usually youngest workers not only do the worst jobs, they get paid the least for doing them. It is no wonder that this basic concept can seem like an outrage, because it is the exact opposite from everything they have grown up with. In the family world, adults do the all the hard stuff, and kids get whatever they need for doing the least.

Accepting that in the adult world of work the newest people do the worst jobs at the least pay, is an essential part of growing up and getting along and getting ahead in the world. If you join a Greek letter house in college, you’ll start out as a pledge, and you’ll do the housework chores. But next year you’ll have new pledges under you doing that work for you. When you go for your first career job, you’ll start out as an intern, and if you’re lucky you’ll be hired to the lowest position at the least pay. But next year you’ll move up the ladder and a group of new hires will start out where you were. This basic system is as true for new doctors doing scut work and lawyers in doc review as it is for any other job or career path.

The reason this system is so universal is basic math. There are always more people wanting good jobs than there are good jobs to go around (which is why there is such a thing as the unemployment rate). So there are always going to be new people coming up, willing to do more work for less pay when they start out, knowing that the situation will be reversed once they move up the ladder and new young people come in behind them.

This may seem very obvious to you, but it is not the least bit obvious to many young people, and we probably haven’t had a single summer in 20 years of Beach Camp without hearing from CITs and CIT moms about how unfair they think it is having new CITs cleaning up or schlepping around paddleboards while full counselors work on their suntans.

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4) The Workplace is Real Life, it Deserves your Best Efforts, it is More Serious than School or Team Sports. The last concept that young people need to embrace in order to be happy and successful transitioning into the workplace, is understanding that even though your first job may be just a short summer or volunteer gig for you, for others in the same workplace, it will be much more. With Beach Camp for example it may be something a camper has been looking forward to for their entire life. It may be a stepping stone for college students needing a good reference to land their first career job, or it may be a life’s work for managers, owners and board members. 

As part of the adult work world, you will be in a position to help - or harm, the customers, the organization, and the co-workers who depend on you. Young people take school assignments and tests seriously because they may have worked for years keeping up a good GPA. So imagine if a new teacher came along who didn’t take grading seriously and carelessness ruined your GPA and your chance to get into the college of your dreams? What if you worked for years to go to the State track meet but a careless volunteer gave you the wrong time for your event? What if someone volunteered to water your plants that you've raised for years but when you went on vacation they forgot?

Entering the adult workplace means accepting that how well you do your job can have life changing impacts on others who trust and depend on you. It is a big responsibility reserved for young people who are ready to take their responsibilities and promises to others seriously.

 

You may benefit from going to school and playing sports even if you never work a day in your life. But the primary purpose of school and sports is to prepare young people so they can get along, contribute, and support themselves in the adult world of work. The work world expects and assumes you will study, memorize, think, and physically exert yourself as much or even more so than in school or sports. Work is the big game of real life that school and sports have been training you for.  

B. How to Be (Demeanor/Personality):  

Following Attitude, the next essential element for transitioning into the adult workplace is developing a Workplace Personality. This doesn't mean being grave or dour. In fact it means just the opposite, but it does involve an element of mindfulness that takes some effort and practice by most young people.

1) Impulsiveness. Kids need babysitters because kids are impulsive. They only think before they act some of the of the time. Adults on the other hand are trusted to look after children because they can be relied on to think before acting all of the time. For adults, thinking first every single time is not just an option, it’s a legal requirement of adulthood, and if they don’t, and someone gets hurt, they can be sued or even go to jail, and it is no defense that they usually think first most other times.

2) Daydreaming. When giving instructions to kids, you’re lucky if they’ll follow half of what you say half of the time. Why? It’s not because kids have bad hearing or bad memories, and it’s usually not because they're being defiant. Most of the time it’s because they never heard the instructions in the first place because they were daydreaming when you were explaining it. Forcing yourself to pay attention when receiving instructions is an essential part of a workplace personality, and is something assumed and expected in the adult workplace.

3) Truthfulness. When something goes wrong and you ask a kid what happened, you can almost see the wheels spinning in their heads trying to come up with an answer that is going to keep them or their friends out of trouble. Kids also delight in spreading gossip and exaggerations. Everyone loves a juicy or funny story and kids pass them around and add to them with abandon. This urge to entertain others, to pretend to know more than you do, and to keep out of trouble, is not confined to kids. But having the self discipline to override the kid urge to confabulate is another important personality trait that is assumed and expected in the adult workplace.

4) Clever Funny vs Gross Funny. Truth be told, the deciding factor when hiring at the best organizations often comes down to how fun they think the new person will be to have around. Reason being, is that the best organizations are made up of accomplished people who can work anywhere they want, and if people can work anywhere they want, they’re always going to choose the place that feels like fun not work. With kids, anything that gets a laugh is fair game for fun. Silly, gross or dumb all gets a laugh. In the adult workplace, however, where people of all ages and backgrounds are together all day, gross or dumb or practical joke type humor quickly wears out its welcome. In the adult workplace, being fun to be around, and making work fun, is all about friendliness and cheerfulness and funny comments and observations. This is another of the assumed and expected transitions, going from kid type “straws in the nostrils” humor, to adult jokey friendly clever fun humor.

5) Making "Work friends" the right way

Personal friends like to bond with each other through disclosing secrets, and commiserating about intimate situations or past acts they feel bad or embarrassed about. Personal friends also bond through complaining about the same people and things they both dislike and bringing in others to dislike them too. It can feel fun and powerful to be plotting behind peoples’ backs and getting others into your clique, and no doubt, the targets of your efforts will provide new material everyday for your gossip sessions, and secret eye rolls.

Problem is, friends in the workplace who you make and bond with in this way, will never hire you, will never recommend you for a promotion, and if they get promoted first, will be looking for a way to get rid of you. Because they know what a poisonous effect this type of conduct has creating the type of fun, energizing, and welcoming workplace that everyone wants.

 

Your number one job in making "Work friends" is to impress them with how good of a job you do, how pleasant and easy you are to get along with and to just have around, and to not give them information which can give them doubts about you, or be used against you in the future. Your “work friends” can love you dearly as a person, but still know too much about you for them to risk their own good standing by recommending you for a promotion, or a job with their new company if they go elsewhere. And they can also love you as a person, but still consider you too much of a downer or gossiper or drama queen to want you around in the workplace. This is the reality of “work friends” vs “personal friends”.  If you want to be happy in the world of work, you will develop ways of bonding that don’t involve salacious details of your love or party life, or criticizing or complaining or exaggerating about people and problems in the work place.  

  

C. What To Do - Simple Tasks and Unwritten rules of Workplace Culture:
 

One aspect of the workplace that comes as a surprise to young people, is that the bigger and better the job, the harder it is for people to tell how well you are doing it. If you are hand keying data to a spreadsheet or loading boxes at Amazon, there’s no question how good of a job you are doing. But what if you are a lawyer, or manager, or scientist, or professor, or even summer camp counselor? It is a lot harder to say for sure how well you are doing in a knowledge or managerial job, or what your good or bad results are attributed to, or to even measure what your results actually are.

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Simple Tasks. But no matter how hard it is to objectively measure your overall job performance, as a young person there will be lots of simple housekeeping type tasks that you will be asked to do, and that will make it very obvious how well you did them. As an intern or new hire you might be asked to go down the street and bring back Starbucks for everyone, or Subway, or Crispy Cream or FedEx or any of the innumerable other housekeeping type things that come up but don't fall neatly into anyone's job description, like putting paper in the copy machine or straightening up the supplies room.

 

As strange as this may seem, simple tasks like these that have nothing to do with your actual job, should be carried out with extreme care, because it may be one of the few opportunities that others have to observe your basic competence and resourcefulness. Simple tasks like these are often viewed as a test for new people, and if you do well, people will assume you can be trusted with the bigger things.

For young people starting out, however, no one tells you this, and as a result young people are frequently offended at being asked to do menial tasks at a new job that they view as beneath their education or dignity. They are upset at being disrespected in this way, and may do the tasks with a sulk or even carelessly on purpose so as to demonstrate their unhappiness, and in the hopes of not being asked to do it again. Unfortunately, this natural reaction of taking offense is guaranteed to achieve the opposite from desired result. As unfair as this may seem, bosses and co-workers will not assume your botched and sulky attempt at a simple task means you are too good for such tasks and are destined for greatness on the big important things. On the contrary, they will assume that anyone who can't keep a Starbucks or Subway order straight is never going to be able to be trusted with something important.

Unwritten Rules of Workplace Culture. The other aspect of the workplace where your performance is easily measured and judged is with the largely unwritten standards of conduct called Workplace Culture or Business Etiquette. If you violate these rules, people won't think you are dumb or lazy like they might if you mess up the Starbucks, but they might think you are rude and thoughtless or even some shade of crazy.

The idea that there are unwritten workplace rules that are as important or even more so than the written rules can be hard for young people to accept at first. But just think for a moment about all the important but unwritten social rules in a young person's world. Let’s say for example you are walking down a crowded school hallway and someone 10 people over who you barely know yells out your name and says “hey what’s up?” What are people going to think about that? Its not a crime, its not harmful, its not against any written rule. Its just a breach of etiquette, and lets face it, you and everyone else around are going to think that person has some kind of problem, and you’d probably be right.

It’s the same thing in the workplace. There are unwritten social rules that everyone assumes everyone knows, and if you break them, people will assume you are willfully rude or possibly even not all there mentally. So lets walk though a few of the essentials starting on your first day in adult work world. Not all of these apply to the work environment at Beach Camp, but they will apply to your next job. So if you are doing something here that doesn’t work in the real world, you definitely want to at least know about it so as to not make it a future habit.

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1. Don’t park weird. The very first way you have to show how ready you are for your first day at your first real world job is how you pull into the parking lot and park. You will have a lot on your mind just then, which makes it easy to do something silly like driving around wrong way against the parking lot direction arrows, or parking way crooked, or between two spaces, or puling into a loading zone, or bosses spot. So if there are prime empty parking spots right at the building entrance, just know, those spots are not there for the added convenience of the organization's newest employee. In the world of work, people and organizations are oddly territorial about parking, and even though parking spots may be unmarked, people generally park in the same spot everyday. In addition, prime parking spots at the front entrance are often left mysteriously vacant for customers, visitors, or big bosses who only come around once in a while. So when you're new, follow the parking lot direction arrows, park toward the back of the lot, straight as an arrow, and next to other cars, until you have a chance to ask someone how the parking situation works. You might just receive a 5 minute dissertation on all the unwritten rules of parking lot etiquette there.

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2. Be a little early. In most workplaces there is something sacrosanct about being settled in and ready to start work by the workplace start time. Sometimes there is a good reason for it, like when the workday starts with a group meeting about things everyone needs to know. Or if it’s a team effort where everyone needs to be there before anyone can start. But more frequently, the preoccupation with having people there a little early will have no logical reason. But just because it makes no real difference when people show up, it still creates emotional upset for bosses and co-workers when someone (particularly a new person) shows up late or at the last minute, which is viewed about the same as being late because of keeping everyone guessing about whether or not you are going to show up. Sometimes this bit of workplace culture was left over from a time when there was a need for it, and sometimes there’s just no explaining it, but in any event, being completely settled in and ready to go by the starting time is a fundamental part of business etiquette just about everywhere.

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3. No Mean-mugging. They say the main cause of intercity gang shootings is "mean-mugging" which is giving someone an underserved disrespectful dirty look. You're not going to get shot for it in the workplace, but you will get the work place equivalent which is having bosses or co-workers be mean right back to you. In the young person world, you likely mean-mug your parents on a regular basis when being told what to do. So a big part of transitioning to the world of work is shedding the adolescent habit of eye rolling or other disrespectful looks when receiving instructions. In the adult world, your game face is a friendly or at very least a placid facial expression with a hint of a smile and lots of nodding when listening to bosses and co-workers explain things to you. Ask your friends and family if you are known for throwing off unintentional dirty looks or looks of abject boredom or terror when people are talking to you, and if so, you'd best start practicing your game face, because an unconscious habit of mean-mugging is going to be a problem and is a sign that you might not be quite ready for the world of work. 

If you are short on time before your first day at work you can stop reading right here because if you do just the 4 main things we've just discussed: Show up on Time, Don’t Park Weird, Don’t Mean-mug Anyone, and Take Simple Tasks Seriously, you’ll make it just fine through your first day in any new job. People might suspect you’re new by what you’re wearing or other minor breaches of workplace protocol, but no one is going to think you’re mean or crazy, and someone will likely take you under their wing after that and tell you everything more you need to know. But there is more. So for the second day at work and beyond, keep reading…

4. Walk alongside, not behind people. This might be something that should go in the first day list, but since enough young people aren’t aware of it, no one is going to think you’re crazy for trailing along behind someone like a puppy dog on your first day at work. After that, however, you’ll want to get with the program and make sure (when hallway space allows) that you are walking beside not behind your boss or others who are trying to show you things or talk to you. Kids of course are used to trailing along in a line like ducklings behind teachers and parents. Adults, however, walk side by side (when space permits) so they can talk to each other, and it is annoying for someone who's doing you a favor by showing you around, to have to turn around and look for you to see if you are within ear shot or paying attention. Bosses frequently like to walk around when they are talking to people, so when your boss starts walking while they are still talking to you, you are expected to jet off alongside of them. It’s one of the funny things that happens in the workplace when a boss is walking off talking to someone who didn’t get the cue and 10 steps later the boss realizes no one is there. People will laugh if you do that once. Next time however, they might assume you’re in the process of being fired.

5. Be nice to your boss. The best organizations to work for are fast growing ones who give a lot of leadership opportunities early on to young people. The flip side of this equation, however, is that your boss will be someone barely older than you, knowing barely more than you, and with no prior experience at being a manager. Sometimes in these circumstances it can feel like you're being bossed around by your little brother or sister, and it might take every bit of self-control you can muster to keep your composure. But if you can manage to keep your cool and keep your game face on in this situation, the pay off is that you are fitting in in a place where you can move up fast in the organization which can create life changing opportunities for you. Entry level management positions come with a lot of headaches, stress, and responsibility, with the only immediate benefit being the unwritten workplace rule that people have to be nice to their manager. You may be the alpha male or the hot girl at school, but in the adult workplace it is assumed and expected that you will be nice and respectful to your supervisors whether or not they’re your same age, or whether they know what they're doing, or whether or not you’d be giving them the brushoff or atomic weggie if you had them in gym class.

6. Say Hi, Small Talk, Names. How often and how many people you Say Hi to during the work day will of course depend on your own personality. No one expects a new person to be the life of the party or to work the crowed as they stroll through the office. But no matter what your personality type is, when passing people in the hallways within your field of vision, it is expected of you to say hi or good morning to those in your own workgroup or department when you see them for the first time each day. If the person is your supervisor, it is expected for you to say hi first. If you don’t, and your boss doesn’t rescue you by saying hi to you, then the awkward silence as you walk past each other is going to feel like an embarrassment which could have lingering effects on your prospects there. Office Small Talk is the delight of many and the torture of many others, but whether it be delight or torture for you, getting along in the adult workplace requires acceptance and appreciation for the necessity of this ritual of office etiquette. Most people feel tension and cannot relax in close proximity to others until they have exchanged a few pleasant words. You many do this reflexively, and if so that's great, but if not, you'll want to say something about the weather or traffic to people next to you as you settle into close proximity with a coworker. If you are the type of person who finds yourself going out of your way to say hi or small talk with people, that’s wonderful and can be good for your career, but you'll want to go out of your way to be consistent about it, otherwise you risk people seeing you as moody or even mad at them if you go from talkative one day to passing them silently the next. Remembering Names is one of the hardest things in life. Fortunately in the workplace you'll have a phone or email list with everyone's names, and you will want to take advantage of that by making a point to remember everyone you have daily contact with as soon as possible. If you forget people's names don't sweat it, but don't ask the same person twice what their name is. Look them up or ask someone else. One of the mysteries of the human relations is that everyone forgets names, but everyone also finds it viscerally annoying to be asked a second time what their name is and they may even take that second inquiry as a sign of disrespect.   

7. Fess up if you break something. When you are new, you are more likely to break or mess something up that other people use, like formulas in a big Excel spreadsheet, or a computer file directory, or a copy machine, printer, piece of lab equipment, or maybe even something in the office gym or lunchroom. If something bad happens to something while you are using it, you are absolutely expected to tell someone. If you don’t, and you are found out later, its going to be a problem, and people may assume rightly or wrongly that you are a sneaky person who cannot be trusted.

8. If you are working with skilled professionals, don't go around asking them if they “need help” from you.  This well meaning phrase of asking people if they "need help" is of course used everyday with friends and family and in non-technical workplaces. But in professional workplaces it can come across as annoying or even disrespectful to professionals when they are asked if they “need help" from some new person who doesn't yet have the slightest idea what they are doing. A lot of them may smile and think its funny for you to put it that way, but enough professionals find this "need help" phrasing annoying or offensive that you should avoid it. Keep in mind that the professional and technical workplace is a lot different from working at home or even somewhere like Starbucks. Lives and livelihoods can be at stake in the technical workplace and people are frequently on edge. No matter how helpful you would like to be, the presence of an intern is inherently unhelpful to skilled professionals, and if you do nothing else, you want to avoid being an annoyance. So if you are lucky enough to be in the position of working alongside skilled professionals, lean in, keep your phone off and your observation and attention level on ultra high alert. Then once you have a feel for what is going on, it is totally fair and even expected to start asking some questions based on what you are observing, with "do you need help with that" not being among them.  

9. Know what the organization does. If you work for an electric car company, then your job in some way shape or form is to support the adoption of electric vehicles. So regardless of what job you have there, people will think it weird and maybe unforgivable for you to do or say something against electric cars. Same if you work for a vegetarian market and bring in Dicks’ Burgers. Or if you work for Planned Parenthood and start talking up right to life. Or if you work at a wilderness camp and wear coder camp t-shirts. You get the idea. People forgive a lot when it comes to workplace mistakes, but there is a line that can be crossed if you do things that appear to undermine the essential purpose and mission of the organization and people’s reason for being there.

10. E-mail mistakes. There's a lot to know about using email in the workplace. Most of it you will learn over time, and since everyone has made e-mail gaffs, you will generally be forgiven for the occasional new person mistake.  But there are a couple mistakes you need to avoid from the outset that people might not forgive. Number one, in the unforgivable category is exposing customer, client or employee emails to people outside the company. Always use BCC when sending emails to groups of people outside the organization who do not already know each other's email addresses. If you were to mistakenly send an email to a customer list without using BCC to hide their email addresses, there would be so much upset among the recipients at having their private email addresses exposed, your organization would almost certainly have to fire you if you have not already resigned. Somewhat more forgivable but still harmful to a young career is the mistake of sending REPLY ALL responses to organization wide emails, and forgetting to use SCHEDULE SEND for the next morning when for whatever reason you were to send an email in the middle of the night (And no they will not think you are a hard worker, they will think you will be asleep or definitely not at your best the next day during work hours).          

  

11. Don’t do anything that no one else is doing. This catchall rule of workplace culture and etiquette captures just about everything else you’ll need to know, and in a sense, sums up all you need to know in the first place. When you are an adult in a new environment, people expect and assume that you do not need to be told every little thing and that you will be observant in paying attention to what others are doing, and that you will conform your conduct to the cultural norms you observe. Loud talking, messy desk, headphones, yoga pants, baseball hats, long hair, purple hair, napping, personal calls, hugging, chewing gum, eating at your desk, showing up late, leaving early… All great, all fine PROVIDED it is normal for others in your same position to be doing it. Otherwise, such things in the workplace might be considered weird, crazy or worse. And of course there can be a big difference between how bosses and other important people are allowed to behave compared to everyone else (remember pecking order). So when it comes to rule #10, make sure you are comparing apples to apples when dealing with the unwritten rules of workplace culture.          

D. Why Should any of this Matter (To You):

Because it boils down to having a happy and fulfilling life. Like everyone, the main career advice you probably have been getting in some form or another is “find something you love”.

The problem with this well meaning advice is that when you are young and haven’t had enough experiences to know what your choices are, its pretty hard to know what you love when you see it. Another even bigger problem with this well meaning advice is that (hard truth be told), when it comes to careers, what people “love” is all pretty much the same thing; a mission that matters, prestige, authority over others, money, and being able to use creativity and self-expression.

So the real challenge in life is not so much “finding something you love”. It is finding something you love that someone will let you do as opposed to the thousand other people who want to do the same thing. Helping with this challenge is the reason for this write-up, giving you a leg up in the world of work, so you can not only find something you love, but have a reasonable chance that someone will think enough of you to give you a chance to actually do it.

 

E. Parting Advice:

The best advice anyone can give a young person is to be careful about advice. This writer for one, cannot recall a single piece of education, career, or financial advice received as a young person that turned out to be true in the long run. And in fact, most of what seemed like good advice at the time from experts in a position to know, turned out to be so wrong as to be comical. For example:

-There’s little chance of widespread adoption of personal computers, its just too expensive to make the needed memory chips.

(My first Computer Science Professor).

-You can never get ahead with dot com stocks, stick with the industrials with proven earnings and dividends.

(My first Stock Broker)

-There will never be much development in Bellevue, its too hard to get across the lake from Seattle.

(My first Real Estate Agent).

 

-Going to law school doesn’t make sense anymore, there’s already more lawyers than will ever be needed.

(The first Lawyer I knew)

 

It is not that givers of bad advice are bad people, they are just well meaning people who are still fighting the last war so to speak. What they learned from the past controls how they think about the future. But the problem is, the future is always different from the past.

So with this warning about advice, I’m going to give you some non-advice advice that may or may not be useful. But at least you know it is coming from someone who has received enough bad advice to possibly know it when he sees it.

-Get very good at something competitive, anything, it doesn’t matter what it is. The process of getting near the top of your game in any challenging endeavor will help give you the fortitude and confidence to get to the top in something bigger and more important when you find it. 

 

-It might take some luck to find good opportunities, but luckily it doesn’t take your own luck, it only takes the luck of someone you have known. If you start young doing a great job at things people trust you to do, when one of those many many people you have impressed over the years runs across the next startup company or opportunity that takes off like a rocket, they will be scouring their memory banks for outstanding people they have known that they can bring in to help. They will need you, and they will look you up. Both my wife and I owe our own careers to this dynamic, and have also been in the position multiple times of scouring our memory banks for people we have known who we would trust to bring on board organizations that are taking off. Even at Beach Camp MMA we get contacted by former staff persons from years ago trying to remember someone they had worked with here who they think would be perfect for some job opportunity in their current organization.   

So based on all this, the sooner you start impressing people the better. With school and summer jobs and internships, you cross paths with a lot more people and get to know more people better when you are young than you will after college or grad school. And the competition when you are young is a lot less because most young people haven’t yet figured out what you are learning right here right now. So the sooner you start impressing people, with the large number of people you will work with along the way, your opportunities for happiness and having a career you love, will no longer depend on luck, it becomes a statistical certainty.


* * * * * * *

Oh, and one last thing, if someone gives you an office, turn the light on. Sitting in dark office = kid thing, not adult.  -JT

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