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A graduate’s guide to office life: Preparing you for your work experience

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Having a good knowledge of workplace expectations will help you get further in your job because it shows you’re proactive, determined, and willing to make as many teas as it takes to get where you want to be.

Now all you need to know is what it will be like and what’s expected of you. Let this guide prepare you for your work experience so you can better the transition from university to the workplace.


Part 1: Office habits

Learning to accept the foibles of your co-workers and attempting to improve your own is part and parcel of a job. These tips should give you an idea of what is good practice and what is not.


The good

Good office habits aren’t too difficult to guess but the key is putting them into practice.

Simple ways to prove you’re an effective team member include getting to work at least five minutes early, keeping your desk tidy, completing tasks on time, and not letting your personal life infringe on your work – this means no texting!

If a problem comes up, try not to stress about it: remain calm, politely ask for help, and move onto the next task.


The bad

The relentless ringing of an office phone drives everyone crazy so if you’re on phone duty, pick it up!

If answering calls panics you, a helpful tip is to script the conversation and note down the names of the people and companies that have phoned so you don’t forget.

On a similar note, loud noises in general are best to avoid so no music blaring out of headphones, no shouting about your weekend, and turn off the notification sounds on your mobile.


The ugly

The top two pet peeves of office workers were found to be smelly co-workers and smelly food. So while you can be heavy handed with the soap, maybe save the garlic for your evening meal.

Attacks on the senses and invasions of personal space are rarely appreciated: don’t let your stuff spill onto other people’s desks and definitely don’t be the guy who gives impromptu shoulder massages!


Part 2: Through the keyhole

You’re now aware of the office habits to adopt and avoid, but what else might you face? Here are a few frequently wondered but unasked questions:


1. “Everyone is staying late, does that mean I should too?”

In short, no. Getting to work early or at least on time is important but overtime isn’t something you should be initially be worrying about.

If you stay late to finish a set task, it will show that you’re conscientious and hardworking; don’t, however, feel you have to work long into the night like some of your colleagues.


2. “The work isn’t challenging. Can I ask to do something else?”

This is a tricky one. Often you won’t be given too much responsibility (ask for help if you are!).

The more time you spend in the role, the more it will evolve and soon you will be working on more challenging tasks.

If you feel you could contribute to more significant work, politely ask to be involved. It won’t look bad, it’ll show two important things: initiative and passion.


3. “If I’m sitting next to someone, why have they emailed me instead of talking to me?”

Probably one of the oddest things that happens in an office, this will take a while to get used to.

It basically to ensure that what is being said is recorded in a relatively informal way, such as items to action or useful websites. Sometimes it’s just because a cat gif won’t send itself.

Working life can feel a million miles away from your life as a student but this advice will hopefully make it an easier and more comfortable ride!


This guest article was written by Lilli Hender of Office Genie. Read more career services advice on our graduate blog – or search the latest graduate jobs in the UK on our jobs board.

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