Like death, work comes for us all. If you plan to go into business for yourself after getting your college degree, we applaud your pioneering spirit. For the rest of you, somewhere out there is a boss with your name on their payroll. Each one of these bosses will have his own particular things he asks of you that you’ll have to learn after you land the job. But there are also quite a few general skills, bits of knowledge, and etiquette rules that you should know before going to work anywhere – regardless of where you live: South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Alabama, Delaware. To smooth out the learning curve for you, we’ve laid out 43 of those below.
- How to send an email:
Screaming at people with all caps, using any color text other than black, and copying people who don’t need to be copied are a few of the email pointers you’ll need to know.
- How to work with older coworkers:
Right now, all your “coworkers” are people in your classes who are your age. Do you have not only the ability to work with older employees, but the humility to learn what they have to teach?
- How to be presentable at work:
Shave. Cover tattoos. Dress modestly. Easy on the cologne/perfume. Don’t try to walk the minimum line for acceptability. People shouldn’t be able to tell by your clothes that you are fresh out of college.
- How to speak on the phone:
When you answer, you say, “Good afternoon, John speaking,” not “What up, this John.” Also, your stupid gimmicky voicemail message? Yeah, that needs to go, too.
- How to interpret boss-speak:
A request to do something “if it’s not too much trouble” means “I want you to do this assignment, and by the way, it will probably be a pain.”
- How to work as part of a group:
Your boss will expect you to be able to gel with a team. You’ll need to know how to work cooperatively, share credit, delegate, and make yourself heard.
- How to treat company property:
Like the corporate card, your desk, computer equipment, chair, and anything else that belongs to your employer should be handled with care.
- How to use a corporate card:
That corporate credit card is not like the one your dad gave you to buy books with that you instead use for alcohol. If you receive a corporate card in your new job, know to use it responsibly and sparingly.
- How to conduct yourself in meetings:
Your future boss is calling to you from six weeks into your new job: “You’re talking too much in meetings. Listen more and think before you speak.”
- How to listen:
Simple as it sounds, active listening is a skill many do not have but all bosses look for. It takes concentration, full attention, and note-taking to really listen well.
- How to keep emotions in check:
Showing a certain amount of emotion does not hurt the chances of career advancement. However, keeping a firm rein on anger and frustration and knowing how much is too much is necessary.
- How to use social media:
As the newest and probably youngest hire, your boss likely assumes you are familiar with Facebook and Twitter and can use your knowledge to promote the company if asked.
- How to read your boss’ body language:
If you walk into your boss’ office and he doesn’t look up, he’s busy; come back later. If he’s walking briskly in the direction of the bathroom, don’t head him off to bend his ear for five minutes.
- How to lead:
When the time comes for you to head up a team project, knowing how to manage people effectively and fairly will be an invaluable skill.
- How to learn quickly:
Your boss doesn’t want to spend the rest of her career training you. The skill of picking things up quickly can be honed, and you should hone it.
- How to manage your time:
Your boss can’t oversee everything you do. It’s up to you to know how to budget your time and when to say no, if necessary, to some requests so that you can meet your primary responsibilities.
- How to make a simple spreadsheet:
Having at least a working knowledge of Excel is important to most bosses in white-collar workplaces. If you didn’t learn it in college, find some free help online.
- How to show respect to superiors:
Especially away from the office, your boss will want you to be respectful and maybe even throw in a “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” sometimes. No matter how chummy you get, never belittle them in public, even in jest.
- How to resolve conflict:
Hopefully you won’t be having frequent run-ins with coworkers. But if you do get in a tussle, your boss will want you to know how to handle it like an adult without him or her having to get involved.
- How to exit gracefully:
If it doesn’t work out, your boss would still appreciate you saying goodbye and thanking him or her for the opportunity. They’ll also be much more inclined to consider hiring you back should the need arise.
What Not To Do
- Be late:
It’s simple enough: respect the job, the boss, and your coworkers by showing up on time. Being at your desk just a few minutes early has a huge payoff in boss brownie points for a small amount of effort.
- Make excuses:
Get the work done, when it’s supposed to be done. If you plan for potential problems, you won’t have a need for excuses anyway.
- Friend him/her on Facebook:
If your boss is like 62% of American bosses, he/she does not want to be your friend on Facebook. Speaking of Facebook, most bosses prefer you not check it at work.
- Be a perfectionist:
Bosses want you to do the best you can with the time you have. They will appreciate the attempt to make everything perfect, but if this means you fall behind or burn out, it’s a problem.
- Expect constant feedback:
There are no grades in the working world. There are performance evaluations, and they happen once a year. An occasional “good work” or critical email may be all you get in the way of feedback from your boss.
- Miss work:
Your future boss hopes you recognize the difference between skipping class and skipping work: no matter how much you skip class, you’re always welcome back.
- Discuss private company matters with outsiders:
You need to respect your employers’ trust in you by not discussing, and especially not badmouthing, in-house matters with people who aren’t part of the organization.
- Talk in the restroom:
This is mainly for guys. Dudes, no talking at the urinals. Consider everyone in the restroom as on personal time, not work time.
- Wait for an invitation:
Your boss will want you to identify and tackle problems without having to ask you. Don’t be too concerned about the results, the effort is the important part.
- Start an office romance:
Many companies may never mention this to you, but odds are your boss will not approve of you dating a coworker. If it goes bad, it’s a potential staff problem created for the boss.
- Ask for special treatment:
Putting your boss in an uncomfortable position is never a good thing. Even if you witness a coworker getting preferential treatment, know that it’s none of your business.
Facts and Rules of Thumb
- That it will take you a year to add value to the company:
Although it’s natural to think or at least hope as a new hire you will be helping the company’s bottom line in a matter of weeks, the reality is it takes about 12 months for you to be an asset, so give it time.
- What constitutes appropriate language:
No one was ever offended by an employee not swearing at work. Swearing is juvenile, it’s unoriginal, and it can lead to harassment or hostility claims.
- What not to talk about:
Equally important with how you should talk is what you shouldn’t talk about. Religion and politics are the biggies, but anything that might make someone uncomfortable, like your love life or financial issues, is best left unsaid.
- What counts as an acceptable website to visit:
Part of taking care of your computer is being overly cautious about clicking over to potentially inappropriate or virus-laden websites.
- That you have to pay your dues:
Don’t expect to be given the most stimulating or rewarding projects right out of the box. As the lowest rung on the ladder, you’ll probably have to put in your time doing the stuff no one else wants to do.
- Your Internet usage can be tracked:
It is totally within your boss’ rights to review your Internet history and even read your emails. Spare you both from an unpleasant conversation and keep everything professional online.
- That he or she is also overworked:
Chances are good your future boss has plenty to keep them busy. They’d love it if you remember they also answer to someone and have their own quotas to meet, so leaving them alone helps.
- Cell phone etiquette:
Few bosses will go to the extreme of making you turn off your phone, but don’t make them regret it. Leave the phone on vibrate and restrict use to brief, important calls.
- Business ethics:
Your boss will expect you to know how to behave ethically in the office, from not fibbing to clients to not stealing pens.
- Your own strengths and weaknesses:
Everyone has things they’re great at and things they stink at. The time to know which is which is before you’ve volunteered for that big assignment.
- Your industry:
Knowing something about what’s going on in your chosen field is a great way to interview well. Once you get the job, don’t stop keeping up with industry news.
- To do more than the bare minimum:
Your boss won’t tell you directly to do more than your job description requires, but all bosses want you to go above and beyond the call of duty.