A letter to my younger self on surviving office life

Dear 22-year-old me,

Oh, hey there, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed graduate. After four amazing years of making new friends, discovering football, and enjoying total independence, you’re ready for a new chapter: the professional world. It’s time to put on that suit and get into a paying career.

But what happened to the “office” instruction manual you can’t find? Forgot to take that class, ‘Goodbye college, hello office?” And did your summers really just disappear?

Don’t fret, dear recent graduate. Here’s an office survival guide that you’ll really find handy.

1. Zip it up

Obviously it’s exciting to get to a new place and share your life story with your new friends. But until you test the waters of who can lock it up and whose loose lips will spill your Saturday night secrets, don’t reveal too much personal information. Plus, some topics should out of the workplace, like weekend ailments, what you drank on Saturday night, and that trip to Amsterdam during your study-abroad experience.

2. Work BFFs are the best

Finding that cubemate you can trust is crucial to your mood. They’ll help you relieve stress and improve your day overall. Make sure to return the favor and slip them a coffee when they’re in an occasional bad mood, too.

3. Don’t date your co-workers

Or, at least proceed with caution. Ok, ok. This is sticky ground. One of my BFFs is engaged to one of her previous colleagues, and they’re adorbs. And dating someone in the office can be exciting considering all the lunch dates, exchanging office gossip, and seeing your crush throughout the day. The flip side? If things go awry, guess who you’ll run into at the copy machine: that’s right, your ex.

4. Workplace attire is not the same as your college wardrobe

Sliding into your cube isn’t the same as slipping into your 8am class in sweats. Head over Ann Taylor Loft’s sales rack and find a few key pieces to start out.

5. Stay out of office gossip

It’s OK to listen to a colleague vent, but save your rants for your BFFs, parents or your cat when you return home at night. You’ll notice you’ll stay out of people’s topics and be seen as a team player.

6. Take a breather

Even if you are glued to your computer, free yourself from the screen and stretch your legs. On a time crunch? Walk around the office or outside to decompress. You’ll be surprised at how refreshing it’ll feel.

7. You don’t have to settle on a career. . .yet

Just because you start out in recruiting doesn’t mean that you’ll one day be Vice President of HR. Instead, participate in projects you enjoy and try to figure out how those skills translate in the long run.

8. Go to networking events

Even to an outgoing gal like me, walking up to strangers and sparking conversation can be a nightmare. Bite the bullet, take a breath and walk up to a new face. You may make a contact, friend or one-time acquaintance, but you’ll never know what will happen until you try. After all, it’s not what you know…

9. Try hobbies outside of work

The real world is kind of like college–extracurriculars matter. This time, it’s not to get a great job, but to find out what you really want to do in life. And with communities like Meetup, you can find the perfect group, from foodies to travel to tech. Get out there. Find your destiny.

You don’t have to have it all figured out yet. Regardless of what our younger selves pictured, life turn out quite different from our expectations. Roll with the punches and take as many opportunities as you are given, whether it’s an evening with friends, a trip to a foreign land, or a simple date with that guy who’s so not your type. Life will work out how it should. I promise.


Older, wiser you

Julie Hancher is a writer, freelancer and (paid) social media addict. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, debating if she actually likes yoga and deciding which Instagram filters are best. (Hudson or Sierra, obviously.) She can be found in Philly editing Green Philly and publishing her awkward inner thoughts on Twitter @JulieHancher.

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