Today I spent the first day in a new place of work. Not quite full-time, but filling in and, hopefully, working when it suits. I loved it and I’m very excited by the opportunity. It’s really stimulating to be learning new stuff and, for once, it resembles a career move with career as a noun.
My head is very full of lots of stuff like how to work a CMS and what ad tags are but I still had time to learn – or at least remember – some other things today.
I struggle to remember faces. There’s a great buzz about being in a big busy office, but it’ll take me weeks to figure out who’s who. It’s actually not so bad in the first few days when I’ll be forgiven, but the problem starts later on when I still don’t know the name of people I’ve been looking at for ages.
I can’t place faces either. Scottish media is a small world, so a new newspaper office will usually throw up someone from somewhere you used to haunt when you were both thinner/less bald/more wrinkled/less cynical/fresher faced. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to smile and nod at everyone even vaguely familiar. There’s a bit of a hitch at a TV station though. I’d like to apologise to the newsreader, weather chap and former-reality-star-turned-presenter who caught me grinning at them in a weird way.
Don’t forget the basics. When you go to the loo take your pass with you so you can get back into the room. Then you won’t have to loiter furtively until someone else opens the door.
If you don’t understand the equipment, don’t mention it. This lesson was learned during my first print journalism rehabilitation stint at a PR agency. I was one of half a dozen ready to participate in a meeting about some campaign or other at a power company’s swish and shiny office. The big meeting room table had a high-tech thingy in the middle. “Oh, what’s that? Is it part of the air conditioning?” I asked loudly.
“What do you mean you haven’t seen one of those? It’s for conference calls, you dozy cow,” my colleague muttered through gritted teeth.
We were supposed to be a dynamic, modern communications agency.
You’re going to be hungry and thirsty. As a new girl I can never make up my mind – is it better to appear with a Tupperware of sarnies and a Thermos of soup looking nerdy and antisocial or twitch with hunger until someone suggests that you can take a break to go to the canteen. Once in the canteen, prepare to dither looking for an empty table or butt in on someone else’s lunchtime gossip.
Hang back until you figure out the rules. These are the real rules of any office. Who makes/gets the coffee? Do you do DIY or is there a silently understood rota? If you offer and they accept have you unwittingly become new girl/tea lady and ruined your whole career? Whose mug is whose? Beware. If you get the wrong one there will be spiteful emails. It may seem like there are dozens of cereal boxes and they are all more-or-less similar. They are not and someone will notice.
On some things, men have the upper hand. The what to wear puzzle is easily solved with a shirt and tie. But we’ve got to decide on sharp suit where you might look like you’re selling something, smart-casual or casual-smart (there’s an important difference), or going your own way regardless. On, and your clothes have to fit and be clean. This is a huge challenge.