Post-Grad Guide – Adjusting to Corporate Culture
So you’ve written a resume, composed a cover letter that would make Tolstoy weep, aced the interview, and landed the job. You’re done making an impression now, right? Not so fast. As you begin work in your new office, remember that you’re on new turf now—an office environment is very different than college and being a worker is very different than being a student, or even an intern. While good manners and common sense are your basic guidelines, there are a few things to keep in mind as you transition from student to employee.
the stereotypical site of office culture
It’s not about you. Up until now most of the experiences you’ve had, in school, in internships, basically anywhere you’ve worked or learned aside from an after school or summer job that wasn’t an internship, have been centered around you. The goal was for you to learn and to grow, and the teachers and professionals you interacted with had that as their primary objective. While you’re never done learning and growing, and while your boss (if they’re a good boss) definitely wants you to continue improving yourself, they are not a college professor. Their job is, ultimately, to increase profit and productivity. You could be sitting in your cubicle discovering the key to your personal enlightenment, but unless that produces tangible results, don’t expect to be rewarded for it with a raise.
You’ll need to learn to take criticism. We all knew the rules of school. Some of us had them down so well that we took our 4.0 GPA’s and certificates of achievement out into the world and expected to receive perfect grades there too. It’s important, when receiving performance evaluations and feedback at the office, to remember that these are not grades. You’re not being judged, you’re being told how to be a better employee, and getting defensive or shutting down is only going to make things worse. Don’t expect yourself to be perfect, and respond gracefully when someone points out an area you need to improve.
Make work friends, but don’t make them your only friends. Having friends at the office is great, in fact it’s an important part of networking, but you will definitely want to keep your personal life personal. Hanging out with office friends after hours is one thing, but seeing the same people 24/7 can lead to drama that will make you look childish and unprofessional. So take a yoga class, join a meetup group, and keep in touch with family and college buddies to keep a sense of perspective. This will also help you avoid the trap of blabbing too much about your after-hours activities at the water cooler. It’s no one’s business what you do in your free time, and less than responsible behavior outside work might not mean anything about your performance from 9-5, but the fact that you can’t keep it to yourself will send some not-so-good messages about your professionalism and sense of appropriate boundaries.
When all else fails just fall back on the good manners you were (hopefully!) raised with: be polite, keep the swearing in check, and don’t sulk when things don’t go your way. With a little effort you’ll be a paragon of professionalism in no time
Caitlin Sahm works as a Merchandising Coordinator by day and is preparing to pursue grad school by night, and enjoys every hectic minute of it.