The past week had been hectic. I mean that's just how every office is like - you are either bored af or swamped. So today, I am going to talk about something different – something about Survivorship and WORK. For some reason people tend to ask me a lot of questions regarding my work or study (more than fashion apparently), sometimes for my advice and sometimes for solutions. So today is the day – my advice for office survivorship.
To start with, I have worked with several companies of different genres before my current one. Surprised or not, I had been a sales person at a skincare shop, a personal assistant / secretary; and am now currently working as a part-time editor as well as a full-time lawyer. Given the nature of my job, I do sometimes deal with ad hoc clients too. I have to admit I have very limited experience but so far all of my jobs went or is still ongoing pretty well (touchwood!), therefore I am guessing my tips do work in some way.
Disclaimer: Nothing personal or implicative here. I am very lucky to be working with something I love.
Always be 120% Prepared, Think Ahead
First thing first. The worst thing that can ever happen is going in front of your boss or your client and say I don't know. It's not college, no one will cover you. If you don't know the answer, someone will, "Ding, next". Of course I am not asking you to have knowledge for everything, but at least know your job. Read the slides in advance, research your clients in advance, prepare answers, do everything you can before you shut that meeting door behind you.
Being 120% prepared starts from bringing extra copies of documents or notepads to a meeting, charging the laptop battery, making sure there's water in the meeting room, to coming up with a Plan B ahead, getting the cost estimate ready, etc. To be fair there is no standard protocol, so my advice is think ahead and beyond. Bring your A game to the office, I guarantee that's what's gonna make you stand out.
Punctual, Punctual, Punctual
You might be saying – oh I know this one. But, tell me, how many times were you late for work? Punctuality is KEY at work. Not only does being late affect the work progress, it also reflects that a low self-management ability. Always be at least 15 minutes (or more) early, and not late, you never know when a client's son's girlfriend's poodle suddenly runs away and the wife only drinks Evian sparkling water. Clients can sometimes be ridiculous – we shouldn’t be surprised anymore.
Be polite to everyone in the office, from Big Bosses to your secretary and cleaners. Be grateful for what they do regardless how small, because without them your life will be a total atomic bomb site. Be the kind of person you will want to work with. Getting some treats, or saying a few "Morning", "Thank you" won't kill you, right?
However, don't over-do it. Good Manners are not equivalent to sucking-up.
Build up your Bank of Knowledge / Connections
I have this habit of making records, from outfits of a client I met today to making document templates for myself, which then I also like to file under different folders. This way when something comes up, I will be able to look through my bank efficiently for the right protocol. Every now and then when I learn something new, I will also go back to my old templates and modify them. Slowly you will realise how much you have gathered and that is what you take away when you are eyeing on a better offer in another company.
Another top tip, unless you have genius memory, always make a brief record after a meeting with a client. This way you can avoid those awkward handshakes when you don’t know what to say.
Ask, Say it
If you are not sure about something, ASK. If you really do not have capacity, SAY it. If there is really no way you can handle that, ASK for HELP. You do not need to feel ashamed at all – you ain't Einstein. It will be too late if you only panic and do nothing until you shit your pants – that is when you really should feel ashamed.
Plus never, never, never second-guess what your boss is thinking. Double confirm with him / her before you make any decision. I mean the petty (dumb) ones might be okay, eg. Which highlighter colour. But for the big ones, especially those that go externally, ASK.
Shut up and Observe
First thing to do if you are the newbie – Observe. Let's say there are 100 rules in the office, 90 of them will not be written; 75 of them, if you get one wrong you are done. So make sure you observe and get those right. Everyone has his / her own habits: oh he only drinks sparkling water; she has parents meeting every Thursday evening; he's a vegan.
Shut up and observe – make sure your eyes are before your mouth for every smallest detail in the room. From making sure the client's glass's never empty, to walking behind your boss or holding the elevator for him, to where to sit in a five-seater – bring those eagle eyes you use to stalk your crush's Instagram and get them right.
Don't lie, we all know office politics exist in all levels in a company. Even with the most easy-going people on earth, it's just inevitable that there will be some kind of divisions, competitions, gossips, etc. You ought have learnt by now from World War I that there are no forever alliances or enemies. It's work – it's all about personal benefits. So no matter if you are in the vortex, or out of it, or you are the vortex, stay neutral. Let people say whatever they want, just do not ever contribute or add anything to it. It's hard, I know, especially when it comes to taking side, but try your best to stay out of it.
I am not asking you not to trust people in the office, but why would you even put yourself in that position if you could avoid it in the first place? Just remember there are way better things to do in the office – spend time on what's worth it.
Of course different dress codes apply to different work field. But girls, mind your neon bra straps, skirt length, v-neckline, white tight pants. Guys, iron your shirt, keep them tucked in, shave your face hair, and shoes – polish them. Being well-dressed is a way to show respect to your job, to your office and to yourself.
It's business – be professional. That's all. Do not bring your own personal emotions to work, again, leave it to your 8pm Shake-Shack Summit. That is also why I am 100% against inter-office relationships. Things just get ugly.
Be more than Careful
Last but not least, be extremely careful, typos, meeting time, signing a document. Never expect anyone to wipe your ass. One mistake is enough to sink the boat. You do not want that.
As I said, I am not the most experienced person in the room. Neither am I the smartest person here. What I said might not be right and may be it doesn't even apply to your working environment. I am sure there will be a lot more about the Art of Office Survivorship but I hope the above does inspire you in some way.
Bring your A Game – Be Prepared, Be Punctual, Be Professional.
In the future I am hoping to do more posts in this genre (maybe?) since people have been asking me regarding work / life crisis. Leave a comment below or DM me if you have any topics you would like to read about.
More coming up in The Art Of….