The 8 Rules To Get You Through Your First Job In The Real World

Abi Scott
Hullo there. I'm Abi Scott, a 23-year-old, Denver based writer with a bachelor's degree in English Lit. Aside from all that boring stuff, here are some things I tend to enjoy: bold red wines, hat days because that's one less day I have to wash her hair, $1 Saint Candles from Walmart, writing, any and all types of cheeses, dogs with expressive faces, finding that perfect winter sweater and wearing it for three days straight, Indian food, low maintenance house plants, leather boots, songs that you loved in the ninth grade but still play today for nostalgia's sake, dimly lit coffee shops, photographs that make me look thin and young, and long haired men. Here are some things I don't really enjoy but tolerate, as they are a necessary part of modern society or Asian cuisine: baby corn cobs (like the ones Tom Hanks eats in "Big"), people publicly texting instead of paying attention to the world around them, driving to destinations under a mile away, dressing room lighting, warm beer, simple math, cliché signs that tell you to dance in the rain (you should dance in the rain if you want, but if it's too cold or you would rather not get wet that day, then so be it), Starbucks, musical movies (except "Les Mis" because come on, Hugh Jackman is a god among men), and photographs taken from a low angle that make it look like I have three chins.

Do you remember joking to your 10th grade algebra teacher about how you’ll never realistically need to find a cosine or tangent in a real world situation? I can honestly say I have not utilized my carefully honed algebraic skill set since narrowly passing college algebra on my second try (as I said I wouldn’t in 10th grade).

What our student debt collecting, city bus riding, post collegiate selves really could have used were some real world instruction. It’d be convenient to know how to file taxes and get a positive return, instead of somehow accidentally paying for the free TurboTax service and owing the government money you didn’t even know you made. It’d be especially advantageous to know what proper behaviors, attire, and conversation befit your first big kid job in corporate America.

We can’t help with taxes or credit scores, but let our mistakes guide the way on the last one.


1. Don’t hook up with the boss

At least, try not to. It’ll be tempting and you’ll convince yourself that this time it would be different. You’re becoming increasingly mature and can handle a little conference room quickie with no strings attached. Sure, he’s a handsome, established bachelor about the town. Sure, comped happy hour is great, especially when you’re used to smuggling mini Tito’s into bars and ordering a club soda with lime. Rides home make you feel like a damn queen after months trapped in the fresh hell that is rush hour public transit.

But, just remember this person will spend more time in your waking sphere than most anyone else in your life. In the vast likelihood that shit goes south, you’ll be forced into casual conversation with former lover/current boss while waiting for your Annie Chun’s tofu bowl to finish cooking in the communal microwave. Those meals take a while to heat up. On second thought, try to stay away from co-workers as well.

2. The receptionist holds the keys

Literally and figuratively. The secretary is often looked at as the bottom rung position in any office. I would know, it’s where I started. However, they have the ultimate say on what calls you get, where your packages are sent to, and keep track of how long you’ve been out for lunch – 94 minute shopping spree at H & M don’t mind if I do.

They know where everything is and if something isn’t where you want it to be, they know how to order it for you. Seriously, they are the keeper of the kingdoms that are office supplies and snacks. A whole world of colored sticky notes, fanciful wall calendars and organic beef jerky await if you metaphorically grease the right palm. Treat your receptionist well.


3. Pants and bras are non-negotiable

While you may have thought Bridget Jones’ see-through top and almost missing skirt to be an over-the-top movie trope, it certainly was not. Yes, youth and a fast metabolism are swiftly escaping a twenty-something’s grasp, but a body-con, sleeveless dress at a corporate luncheon is unseemly at the office. Clients and coworkers should not be able to glimpse the outline of a lacey thong through silk pants that are the thickness of a tissue.

Helpful hint: It’s easier to check out the work attire if you get dressed in a decently well lit room. It’s hard to see what little a bralette actually does for the chest by way of nipple concealment if the shirt gets checked out in the dimly lit hall mirror while headed out the door. But don’t worry, caring co-workers will alert you to the situation by offering sweaters, a poncho, and yes, even their personal space heaters.


4. Olfactory sensitivities abound

…or people like to think they do. What may smell like roses to you will indefinitely smell like a rotting, moldy compost bin to your cubicle mate. It’s best to avoid highly scented lotions, perfumes, hell even Febreze will set someone running to HR to complain about their alleged eucalyptus allergy. It’s real boring in an office as you probably know and people love to complain. Try not to give them a reason to target you.


5. It’s called a ‘communal kitchen’ for a reason

Don’t treat it like it’s your personal refrigerator/pantry/place to store every gluten free product known to man – heaven forbid one go hungry for a few hours at work and not be able to track down sustenance sans gluten in the entire city.

There’s nothing worse than trying to locate your food amidst the four month old, half wrapped Chipotle burritos, and the Tupperwares of green tinted dinners of yesteryear. Whatever you leave in the fridge is your responsibility to take out of the fridge. Same goes with dishes in the sink. It takes three extra seconds to rinse and load that coffee mug that’s been sitting on your desk for a week.

Things to avoid microwaving:

– Kimchi (trust me, this has been done before and the results are ghastly)
– Fish of any kind (a microwaved Tuna melt is a poor excuse for a sandwich anyways)
– Curried dishes
– Vegetables belonging to the cabbage family (namely: brussel sprouts and broccoli)


6. Talk shit get hit with a written warning from Human Resources

Sometimes it’s fun to indulge in a little office gossip. But things can get carried away real quickly, especially at a work luncheon or happy hour meet and greet. It may seem like a quick way to bond with your co-workers. I mean, almost everyone can agree that Sandra’s Mickey Mouse broaches have got to go, but don’t put in your two cents if you can avoid it.

Office gossip will always come back to bite you. If you don’t care, then go for it. If you value your coworkers and superiors opinions of you, remain professional and don’t speak about others whose help you may need one day. Simple as that.


7. Keep track of everything

Literally, everything. This is not a superfluous, millennial use of the word literally. Write everything down, file it away, save pertinent emails in a ‘personals’ folder – good and bad. If a client or coworker goes beyond the regular realm of ‘thank you’ and sings your praises, file that shit away and pull it out when you want to negotiate a raise or extra vacation time. It also helps to read over those when you feel your youth slipping away faster than grains of sand in an hourglass – read over those pats on the back and realize that even though you consider the position of desk jockey less than glamorous, someone on the other side of the computer screen really appreciates your hard work.

Like I said, save the bad stuff too. Emails where someone is short, snappy, or just plain rude. Continue to kill them with kindness, while slow rolling their inappropriate locution into a secret folder you can whip out on a rainy day to prove that you maintained the high ground even though a certain client or coworker made it very difficult at times.

8. Even if your party days aren’t over, pretend they are

It’s fun to be the youngest in the office. You’re fresh faced, willing to work longer hours for less pay, and go out with a new gang for post work drinks. People will like you. People will also want to live vicariously through your weekend shenanigans. Less is more in this case. Hangovers were cute in general biology when the entire auditorium wreaked of last night’s whiskey shots but are seemingly less charming when you’re the only bleary eyed cog in yesterday’s slacks.

The tedium and monotony of office jobs can suck at times, but they can also add a lot of value to your adult experience. It’s basically a crash course in ‘how to act when you have to be around people who also don’t want to be around you for nine hours a day, doing things that none of you want to do’. In your twenties, a desk job will provide a bit of stability and allow you to save for a trip around the world or a move to a new city, you just have to put in a little time and a little effort. Stick to the script and you’ll make it out alive and onto your next adventure.

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