Career

Ace Your First Office Job With These 5 Survival Tips

Millennials get a truly bad rap in the media and at the hands of Internet commenters when anyone tries to clear the Millennial name. If you believe the general discourse, you’re lazy, entitled and self-absorbed, living at home with your parents because you want a free ride and expecting a promotion the minute you walk in the door of a new job. The latest slur? Millennials can’t even take a joke.

You’ve heard it all before.

google millennials

Feel the love.

This perception has been proven untrue again and again, but your new boss probably hasn’t been keeping up to date on the latest think-pieces regarding the positive traits of those born between 1980 and 1994. They’re far more likely to be decrying ‘selfies’ than be open to the unique skill sets, leadership capabilities and work styles of ‘Generation Me’.

The good news is that as a Millennial, not only can you easily transition from school, TAFE or uni into working life, you can also quickly prove your value to your boss and the rest of your team, using some of the characteristics older generations so readily dismiss. Here are our top five tips and hacks for surviving your first job:

#1 Prepare your personal toolkit

Office work can be likened to an endurance test in which you have to sit quietly in the same spot for 8+ hours a day and stay focussed basically the whole time. As such, it’s a good idea to have a desk drawer that’s stocked with essential supplies to help you through – think first aid (painkillers, throat lozenges, Band-Aids); energy (chocolate, some coconut water, some snacks like nuts); and practical (stay-at-work phone charger, earphones, and personal care stuff like deodorant or tampons).

dark-brown-milk-candy-large

Suddenly everyone knows your name.

Not only will you be prepared for most day-to-day emergencies, but you’ll quickly become the office lifesaver and earn the undying gratitude of your co-workers, so it’s a worthwhile investment and makes you a good office citizen (especially if you pair it with emptying the dishwasher once in a while). You can also get a succulent or other easy-care plant to make your desk space personable.

#2 Go that extra mile

Make Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 your anthem and get down to business. Seriously, if you want to prove your worth, you can’t treat your brand-new career like you did your high school Boost Juice job. If you focus on it, after a short while on the job, you should be able to start anticipating needs and finding ways to make life a bit easier for your manager. It could be as simple as keeping mental tabs on where a project is at so you can give updates on cue, offering to make tea, or printing a report for them to read on the way home and then reminding them to read it as they walk out the door.

Try to be a bit of an overachiever. It doesn’t mean staying an hour behind every day, but it does mean doing so if it’s urgent, arriving with plenty of time to plan your day and being fully engaged. You’ll look impressive, promise.

#3 Take brilliant notes and learn to prioritise your to-do list

If you’re working in an office, your days are likely to be punctuated with meetings, which may be a good chance to get away from the screen and desk, but are also traditionally snoozefests. To ace meetings, always bring your notepad and pen (it’s better than a laptop for long term comprehension) and take notes – it helps you stay engaged and can often save the day when a miscommunication arises, especially if you jump from one meeting to another and lose track of threads.

desk-notebook-office-grey

Use it or lose it.

Then, find an app that works for you (like Wunderlist or Todoist) to help you prioritise and track the tasks you’ve been assigned in the meetings. If you’re unclear on which jobs are more pressing, ask your manager – they’d rather help you sooner than wait on an important piece of work later.

#4 Become the team tech magician

You’re a digital native, meaning you have tech knowledge that is orders of magnitude greater than many of your co-workers. When your Gen X and Boomer colleagues can’t figure out an app or have issues getting the PowerPoint presentation working, you can swoop in to save the day. It’s a cinch for you, it makes life easier for them and it makes you look like Steve Jobs, only less of a workplace bully.

You can also use your knowledge to make work life easier – for instance, introducing tools like If This Then That, Buffer, Canva or Slack if needed. Be wary of stepping on toes, but if the need is articulated and you have the answer, go for it.

#5 Get involved in the culture and make some work friends

Finally, you’ll be spending 40 hours a week or more in your office, so it’s a good idea to embrace its culture and people, even if at first glance you don’t think there’s anyone on the same page as you and the ‘culture’ seems a bit daggy (or non-existent). There can be genuine learning and connection to be had from the old ‘how was your weekend?’ gambit; if you answer with a little detail and enthusiasm, you’re more likely to be met with the same – and from there you can uncover common interests, interesting opinions and useful recommendations.

Say yes to lunch and drinks invitations – it’s always a good idea to find a couple of people who you can hang with – no-one wants to be a nigel. Additionally, you never know what you can learn from people at different stages of their lives from you, outside your normal social circle – perhaps the best way to dispel the myth that you’re an insular, selfish Millennial.


Vivienne is a travelling freelance writer/editor, feminist, Harry Potter nerd and co-founder of Taylor Hermione & Co, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes safe relationships, consent and gender issues to teenagers in Australia. Find her on Twitter @VivEgan41 and Instagram @vivalogue