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Dos and don'ts for every twenty something in their first job

So you’ve got your first proper job – congratulations! Now what’s next? When you get your very first job in an office after years hiding away in uni halls, it can be tough to figure out the right etiquette.

It can be jarring to try and be a proper adult when you’re used to popping into a lecture theatre for an hour every other day and spending the rest of your time watching Netflix and eating Wotsits in your pyjamas. No longer is it acceptable to show up half prepared and half asleep. You have to be on the ball, every single day, whether or not you feel like you’re about to actually die. You’re an adult now, and we’re here to help you navigate the dos and don’ts for your very first job. 

DO: Be on time and stay late

We won’t lie, bosses have a definite preconception that millennials are going to be a tad on the lazy side – even a bit entitled. Whether that’s fair or not, it’s your job to prove you’re not – on behalf of everyone else in Gen Y. You need to be on time every single day, if not early. Be prepared and ready to stay late and prove your commitment to the job. You don’t have to do this all the time necessarily, but especially in the beginning, it pays to be punctual. Show them you were worth hiring over that Simon who you’re pretty sure was smarter than you but definitely voiced a few too many wacky ideas at the assessment day.

DON’T: Catch up on your social media

We know the cold, sweaty fear of missing out on 103 messages in the group Whatsapp. We also know the very particular excitement of opening your phone to see 15 Twitter notifications. You know what else is great? Getting paid. Your boss probably won’t understand why you want to check your phone every 15 seconds, so it’s best to save that for when you’re unwrapping your *Subway sandwich at lunch.

*It’s ok, we don’t expect you to be completely out of your old uni habits. Quinoa salad lunches is one change too far, we know. The group chat can always wait. You’ve probably seen all the memes before, anyway.

DO: Know your worth

While it’s important to prove how great you are, it’s always important to know your own value. Before you start, make sure you do your research on how much you should be paid. Don’t be afraid to ask for a pay review further down the line if you feel you’re being taken advantage of. It’s also important to show your dedication, but if your boss is constantly having you do work outside of office hours with no overtime, that’s a red flag.

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DON’T: Show up drunk or hungover

Honestly, don’t do it. This isn’t the beautiful, halcyon days of university anymore. No more 3 for £5 vodka redbulls down the SU on a Tuesday. You save the booze binges for Friday and Saturday, you now drink a lot of water, and you get used to your new grownup life. If you insist on being hungover at work, be smart about it. Berocca is your friend.

DO: Socialise

While nothing is going be quite like uni, and we wouldn’t recommend getting so inebriated that you think it’s actually a good idea to come onto your manager, or worse, tell them your honest opinions on their management style and how you think they could improve it, there’s a decent level of socialising to be had. Lunches out, pub Fridays, maybe the odd dinner. You can be professional and still social, and it’s good to kinda sorta know each other as real people.

DON’T: Overshare

But on that note, when somebody asks, “hey, mate, how did your weekend go?”, an acceptable answer is, “great, thanks! It was my friend’s birthday!”. An unacceptable answer is, “it was my friend’s birthday, so I drank fifteen Jagerbombs, danced on tables, and am now covered from head to toe in bruises and feel like a literal zombie”. Just – there’s a completely normal level of sharing with a professional colleague. Please gauge it for yourself, but a good rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t tell your mum, maybe don’t tell your desk mate.

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DO: Follow etiquette and protocol

We can only help you so far – every single industry and workplace has different etiquette and rules that they follow. Read your handbook inside and out, follow up on questions, and make sure you know all the facts. That way if someone tries to trip you up, you know where you stand. Remember when you showed up wearing that t-shirt with a dodgy slogan and had to have a stern telling off in your manager’s office? Yeah, that probably wouldn’t have happened if you’d read the handbook..

DON’T: Get involved in romantic relationships

We mean, alright, sometimes it can be hard to resist someone you sit across from every day and start to fancy. But as well as the usual emotional nightmares, you’ll have HR to deal with, and you’ll have to see their face every single day if it goes sour. If you absolutely cannot control yourself then nobody can stop you, but please consider the consequences.

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DO: Ask questions

All the time, especially if you’re not sure about anything. It’s important to prove that you’re interested and keen and want to know as much as possible about your work. Obviously there’s a point where it’s a little too much, and tapping your manager on the shoulder for the 15th time during their lunch break to ask if you’re doing OK is probably a bit much, but we trust you to figure out where to draw the line.

DON’T: Talk behind people’s backs

Just don’t do it. It can be really tempting, and having a moan is certainly an easy way to get involved quickly, but it’s not worth looking like a bad person or coming across as someone that nobody can trust. You don’t know where people’s alliances lie – if you say to Jessica that you think Ed is lazy, you can’t actually be sure that she won’t tell him and make you look like a bad person. Just don’t do it.

See also: Applying for your first job: dos and don’ts