It has come to my attention that surviving life in the working world—specifically one spent in the cubicle environment—is no small feat. The transition to cube existence can be particularly difficult after one is used to the on-the-go lifestyle of the typical college student and at its most extreme, can even trigger a momentary mid-mid-life crisis at the ripe age of 23.
In an effort to alleviate the shock such a radical change in lifestyle can often produce, I have decided to offer a few suggestions for those making the switch.
(By no means is this an all-inclusive list. It merely reflects my experience thus far.)
Without further ado, I offer you:
Sara’s Guide to Surviving Cubicle Life
1. Chat it up. If I could give one piece of advice to the up-and-coming office guru, it would definitely be this—get to know your co-workers. Sure, they may come off as a little strange at first and you may not agree with their choice of hairstyle, but don’t let that intimidate you. There is no telling what gems lie hidden amongst those never-ending cubicle walls. In fact, I could write a whole post on office characters I’ve encountered—Big Trent, RenRon, Lunch-Date-Disaster Lance, Julie the Workout Queen...I could go on and on. The point is, you won’t discover how quirky these people really are unless you make a little effort. Besides, what else do you have to do?
(Note: If you choose to nickname your co-workers, please be advised that while this makes for entertaining references, it can put you in quite the awkward social situation if the nickname manages to slip out in everyday conversation.)
2. Stop! Hey, what’s that sound? If you are planning on excelling in the office environment, it is imperative that you heighten your sense of hearing. This will come in handy on several occasions. First, while chatting with your co-workers will teach you a lot, over-hearing their cubicle conversations with others will teach you even more. Just remember they are most certainly returning the favor. Consider yourself warned.
But an acute sense of hearing has far more meaningful purposes than mere office entertainment—it is your link to these two magic words: office treats. Donut Mondays, Bagel Fridays, birthday cake, Christmas cookies, and all the trans fat sprinkled in-between, it is that listening ear that is your key to being the first to know.
So strain those ears, my friends. The essence of your very existence depends on it.
3. Caffeine? Yes please! Will it stain your teeth? Yes. Leave you with bad breath? Mmhmm. Possibly cause stomach ulcers? You got it. However, it is time you throw caution to the wind and embrace this fact—you (yes, even you) will likely become a caffeine addict. Think of it as a right of passage.
Don’t like the strong-and-super-crappy-office coffee? No worries. Add a few (or five) Splenda packets in that bad boy and you’re good to go. Cheers!
4. Cardigans and keds—so hot right now. As with most things in life, survival in the workplace often hinges on wearing the proper attire. In an office, this consists of several wardrobe necessities.
First and foremost is the cardigan. Start stocking up now, ladies, because this is one staple you can’t live without. No matter what the temperature may be outside, the cube temp is almost always guaranteed to raise those goosebumps faster than the donuts disappear from the break room. Unless you are planning on permanently planting yourself in front of a space heater, a cardigan is the way to go.
Second, and perhaps most heartbreaking, get over your high heels (or at least be prepared to bring a change of shoes). I know what you are thinking. “I will never fall victim to the skirt and tennis shoes combo! That has my mother written all over it!” You’re right. It’s not pretty. But as painful as this fashion disaster may be, it’s a whole lot better than hobbling around the office with massive blisters because you wore your sky-high heels while walking into work. Believe me, it is not worth it.
Note: I am not sure what the equivalent of this fashion tip would be for men. However, I do know that despite the trend, no work environment warrants the existence of the mullet. Sorry, but no.
5. Office space. Sure, it takes a little work. Okay, a lot of work. But if you’re going to be completely surrounded by dull gray walls every day, you must throw yourself into making it the best-looking dull gray walls known in your cubicle community. So go ahead, plaster that cork board with as many photos as humanly possible. Tack up a few posters with cheesy inspirational quotes. Display that Dwight bobble head next to the Kleenex box and germ-X. And when you’re finished, lean back in that ergonomically-correct office chair of yours and swivel around in satisfaction. Welcome home.
And finally, when all else fails…
6. Start a blog.