This may not be the most popular opinion in the world, but Ryan Howard (BJ Novak) is one of the most interesting characters on the American version of The Office. When he first enters the show, he’s a somewhat cocky and even naïve temp/business school student, thrust into a new job at Dunder Mifflin. He doesn’t have much of an idea of what to expect when dealing with the Michael Scotts, Dwight Schrutes, and even Jim Halperts of the world; he’s not exactly in a rare spot for young professionals.
Ryan doesn’t get much of a roadmap to the professional world, and as he rises through the system, he eventually lands a cushy executive corporate job thanks to his MBA—and promptly loses the job due to various unethical practices. For the rest of the series, he essentially flails having never really learned how to actually be productive in an office environment. You know what Ryan Howard could’ve used? Some actual good advice—not from his manchild boss or his power-hungry sidekick.
In an attempt to avoid more Ryan Howard-esque tragedies, many millennial r/AskReddit users contributed to a thread offering those in Gen Z some tips they’ve picked up from their first however-many years in the working world. These were the biggest takeaways.
You’re Not Married to Your First Job
Making decisions can be hard; everyone knows that. But it’s important to not let the pressure of picking your first working-world job hold you down for too long. As one user wrote, “Your first job doesn’t have to be your only job. Always keep your options open and look for ways to move up in your company or another company.” That’s a good bit of advice to take—experience is king, and having that extra step or skill on your resume can be vital to eventually landing the job you really do want.
Another ueser added a helpful anecdote: “My dad used to tell me ‘your job is to work for a better job.’ Didn’t matter if it was within the company or outside. I loved this point of view because it kept me looking forward even when I felt like I was not doing the most impressive or meaningful work”
You are a Mercenary
With a full time job—typically at least 40 hours a week—it can be easy to lose sight of what exactly it is, since it’s taking up the majority of your waking time. But it’s important to remember that you have to look out for yourself. “Don’t compromise a decision that’s in the best interest of your own career growth because you feel it would be a disservice to your current employer,” wrote one user. “They will do a disservice to you in a heartbeat if it’s in the best interest of the company.”
It’s also important to consider other factors aside from money. Financial stability is important, but so is flexibility, a supervisor you can get along with, benefits, and other perks. As one user wrote, “You are a mercenary. The sooner you adopt that mindset, the better life will be.”
Get Used to Talking on the Phone
You may have gotten used to texting, e-mailing, and messaging over the last few years, but sometimes you’re going to need to just get on the phone and talk to someone to actually get things done. It’s too easy to simply ignore an e-mail or text message. One user put it in super simple terms: “When someone tells you to figure something out quickly, you can’t be nervous to make a bunch of calls, because waiting for an email reply doesn’t cut it.
Another commenter added a useful amendment to that: Document every call you make with a follow-up e-mail. “That way you have no dispute that the meeting took place and what the takeaways were. Without a paper trail, people are always willing to throw you under the bus to cover for their own forgetfulness, laziness and/or incompetence.”
“Yup. ALWAYS CYA,” one user wrote. “Cover Your Ass”
Don’t Be Stupid on Social Media
It might feel super tempting to get home from a tough day at work start venting all over your various profiles; don’t do this. It might seem safe to open up to your various followers with your possibly controversial take on a hot-button issue; don’t do this.
“Companies are hiring firms to trawl applicants’ social media presence, and if you put your boss on blast on your “private” Facebook page, it will make it back to them,” one commenter wrote. “If you call in sick and then post pictures of yourself at the beach, it will get back to your boss.”
It could also pay to simply put your settings on private. One commenter said that they used to have to sift through candidates for potential interviews as the head of a science department. The first order of action was to look people up on social media. “If I can find pictures of an applicant dry humping a statue of their college mascot, their racy spring break album, and posts about their love of weed, so can their potential future high school students, and so can the kids’ parents.”
You’ll Find Drama Everywhere. Don’t Get Involved.
As one user said, there’s going to be high school-level petty drama everywhere you go. People will always find conflict, and there will always be problems to be hashed out. The solution? Keep away. “The best thing to do is clock in, do your job, and clock out.”
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