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Getting that First and Keeping It!

by Alaina Alexander and Bridgitte Krupke

After months of sending out your resume, networking endlessly and working for free you have finally landed an entry level job in your field. You even have  a salary, benefits and your own cubicle.  Of course, just getting your foot in the door isn't enough. 

The guidelines below are designed to give you a general overview of about the life of an entry level worker in the creative arts industry. Keep in mind that every  workplace is unique.

1. Proofread everything before handing it in.

Working long hours is a part of the territory in the creative industry, especially when you are in the peon stage of your career. That missing word could completely change the meaning of a document. You don't want to get a reputation for doing sloppy or inaccurate work.

Note on Proofreading:

Our first few efforts with were proofreading disasters. The web software we were using did not have spell/grammar check capabilities. As a result, many of our articles contained typos and style errors. The moral of the story is that  documents that have been scanned by spell/grammar check functions may still contain style errors. The best defenses against mistakes is to read your final copy out loud and necessary changes.

2. Have 2 extra copies on hand of everything 

 Coffee spills and other mishaps have been known to happen to important documents.

3. After you save a lengthy document, print out a copy.

4. Keep your work area neat and clean 

Messiness is not a sign of genius, but of a disorganized mind. 

5. Ask questions if you are unsure about anything

No one expects you to read minds or to know every aspect of your job during the first few weeks. 

6. Always have a pen and tablet at the ready

When  a crisis hits you will be able to refer back to your notes.

7. Keep an air of professionalism after hours

Stay on your best behavior during office parties and other business functions. Stick to the one drink rule, regardless of whether the alcohol is free or not. Excessive drinking can make you too chatty about your experimental phase of college. An after hours office function is not the best place to debut your new dog collar or that kicky fuchsia cellophane dress. 

8. Don't let the gossip chain start with you

Exchanging information is part of human nature, most of us enjoy passing on good news of a co-worker. However, there are folks who belong to the catty crew, who relish  in the misery of others and they can't wait to be the first to break bad news.  Once you are lumped in with the catty crew your credibility can go way down in the eyes of colleagues and management. On the other hand you don't want to create animosity with them. Remain neutral at all times around these folks do not give them any fodder for their gossip mill.

9. Don't Bring Personal Soap Operas to Work

 Your colleagues do not want to be bystanders to constant  phone squabbles with your significant other or hear a daily detailed account of how your friends are cheating the government. If it all possible, leave personal problems at home. Also, limit the time you are on the phone for non-urgent personal calls.

Note: Email is a great technological breakthrough, but it can also be hazardous to your work habits. Especially, if you go into a downward spiral of forwarding cheesy emails to everyone you know!

10. Don't meet your honey where ya make your money

The long hours and the constant togetherness are the main ingredients for an office romance. Unfortunately, it can also lead to the disintegration of morale in the workplace. The relationship will always be  under scrutiny and as a result the quality of work can suffer if you are put in a position in which you have to defend yourself each day. If the object of your profession is in a supervisory position, then there is  both internal and external pressure to prove that your exemplary reviews are based on your competence and not your other "talents". Also, consider the fallout after within the workplace if the relationship goes sour. You will probably have to contend with the whispers, hostility and the prospect of seeing Mr./Ms Wrong every day at work.

Note: Avoid engaging in office romances whenever possible! However, if you are that it is Mr./Ms. Right then one of you will have to transfer out of the department or better yet change jobs. Also, discretion is definitely the better part of valor, so keep the pet names, domestic squabbles and make- out sessions out of the workplace.

11. Basic Protocol

There is a temptation at your first entry-level gig to treat the receptionist and mail clerks with little or no respect. It's a twisted kind of ego boost that will backfires. As an entry level worker you are a dime a dozen, but a good receptionist or mail clerk is harder to replace.

Note: Today's mail clerk could be tomorrow's Human Resource Director and they won't forget who treated them like dirt during their entry-level days.

12. Everyone make mistakes

 Mistakes can happen to us all and many time they occur when we are getting bogged down in work and a minute detail will escape our attention. Most employers will understand the occasional mistake. However, when it becomes a habitual occurrence then they begin to doubt reliability as an employee. If your error rate seems to be increasing then ask yourself the following questions:

Note: Trace the root of a mistake for future evidence

13. Have a life outside of work

Even the most ambitious person  has to have a life, friends and interest outside of work. Otherwise, there is a danger of becoming one of those androids who are constantly talking shop after hours.

Note: Read trashy novels, workout, volunteer, but take a mental break from the office whenever possible!

14. Volunteer for extra projects

Volunteering for projects is one way to get the bigwigs to notice you. However, be choosy about the volunteer projects that you take on. Ideally, you should volunteer to work on projects that will give you a higher visibility around the office. Also, remember, not to neglect the duties that you were originally hired to perform for the company.

15. Return phone calls and email promptly

 Block out an hour or so each day to return phone calls and emails. If it is a matter that can't be handled in one return call or email, then schedule a later date in which it can be discussed. 

Note: No one is too important to return phone calls and emails in a prompt fashion! 

These guidelines are basic common sense,  but you would be surprised at how many of us forget them when we get into an office environment. It is important to keep both your eyes and your mind open during your clerical tour of duty.