Welcome to Entry-Level Life

Congratulations! You successfully survived and completed college and worked enough unpaid internships that you were a front-runner in the recent graduate job search, and now you’re starting your very first entry-level job this summer. While you don’t necessarily lack experience in offices, your first day will still likely leave you a bit shocked by all the differences between your past experience and this new real job. Below are six of the most universal, unavoidable surprises, for which you will be more prepared after reading this guide.

FindSpark office phone

Image courtesy of Chris Dlugosz

First one in

On your first day, you’ll be excited, anxious, and overly prepared. You’ll show up early in your freshly ironed first day outfit, only to be brought back down to earth when you realize you’re the first one in the entire office to show up, and no one else cares that this lovely Monday is your first day of work. You’ll sit silently waiting for ten minutes, anxiously wondering whether you have the wrong day or the wrong office or if you just wanted a job so badly that you hallucinated the entire hiring process, until the first person arrives at 9:01 and remembers you were supposed to start that day.

Least private desk

As the newest employee in the lowest-level job, you should be prepared to get the worst desk location. While as an intern it was expected that you were usually stuck in some dark corner (for one of my internships, all of my desk supplies were in a cardboard box in the closet that I had to take out every morning and put back every night after I finished my work at the conference table), now that you’re a real employee, your unfortunate desk situation might be a bit disconcerting. Your computer monitor is on display to half of the office, and everyone can hear your entire conversation any time you answer your phone. You likely won’t even be able to get away with swiveling your brand new, very own, office chair around in circles a few times without getting caught and looked at strangely.

Impossible telephones

Who knew offices still used phones with cords? They even have features that allow you to put five people on hold at once, intercom to other people’s offices, and do all sorts of things you don’t ever remember your parents’ landline doing. No one at work will realize that the sight of this curly-tailed plastic monster makes you panic, and they’ll expect you to just pick it right up since you’re a young millennial who is good at technology. You won’t. The best thing you can do is to secretly take the manual home after your first day and memorize it.

All of the passwords

As an unpaid intern, the most trust that companies were willing to put in you usually just involved them adding you as an administrator on the Facebook page. On your first day of work at your new job, however, your boss will hand over a 10-page typed list of the passwords to every account the office uses, all of the banking information, and the keys to the entire building and every room in it. Smile, set those things aside, and pretend like you aren’t imagining all of the fun things you could do with this new information.

The bathroom situation

One of the worst things about your first day at your new job is learning the bathroom rituals of your coworkers and becoming comfortable peeing directly next to your boss in an otherwise silent room. Do people smile and chat while washing their hands, or do they just stare down and pretend to be invisible? Which stalls do they usually use, which ones are cleanest, and how many do they usually keep between people? One thing that can help to alleviate these anxieties is if you have lots of older adults in the office: they don’t usually care as much about bathroom etiquette, and they’ll even stop you on your way in or out to have a nice long chat.

9:00 to 5:00 is a really long time

Even when you had long days at school, they were spent moving about between buildings, working on a wide variety of different tasks, and thinking about diverse things. The long days were manageable, so you’ll probably start work with the opinion that 8-hour days will be just fine. What you don’t realize is that in your entry-level office job, you’ll be sitting in the same place, with the same people, doing the same thing, for all of those eight hours. By the end of your first day you’ll be ready to sprint out of the door at 5:01, and by the end of your first week you’ll have perfected the act of leaving work, going to happy hour, and having a drink in your hand by 5:25.

FindSpark Office Clock

Image courtesy of Filter Forge

The transition from being a student/intern to being a full-time worker is a big one, and will likely cause you many anxieties. On your first day, just remember that these things are happening to everyone, and be thankful that you’re able to take a break from trolling the FindSpark job board every day because you have a job.

Here are three bonus tips:

  • Bring a small, easily concealable snack with you the first day if you don’t already know how the office handles lunch. You don’t want to be the only weirdo who brought lunch when everyone goes out, and you don’t want to be the only one starving because everyone stays in.
  • Take your time to arrange your keyboard, monitor, and chair height. Just like driving a car, everyone has different preferences and you shouldn’t embark on your journey before those are taken care of.
  • When in doubt, just ask. You aren’t expected to know how to do everything on your first day, and it’s okay that you’ll have to take some time to figure things out. Chances are, though, that no one else knows how to work the mail machine either.

Are you worried about any other first-day shocks? Did any of these things happen to you? Do you have any advice for others about to enter entry-level life? Let us know in the comments.

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