1. When taking notes during a meeting, type the fastest
But be careful not to break eye contact with the person who is speaking the entire time you type. Only the most intelligent note takers don’t have to look at the keyboard. Extra points are awarded for not blinking during the duration of the meeting, and for adding a nod and a smile after each period at the end of a sentence. Your fast typing and obvious multi-tasking skills might win you the chance to speak at the next meeting.
2. In a moment of awkward silence,
talk about your study abroad experience
This will show a room full of middle-aged white men in suits that even though this is your first job out of college, you are worldly, and if nothing else, you have a captivating fun fact.
3. If you have nothing to do,
walk really fast through the hallway
It gives off the impression that you look like you have a lot of work to do and that, yes, your presence is needed somewhere. I have noticed the best results if the speed is not quite a jog, but is definitely not a walk, either. A slight opening of the blazer from the wind you are generating adds an edge as well.
4. Be prepared for elevator weather chat
This is your time to shine. It is critical to your future career that you dominate whatever conversation spawns from the weather outside. This is especially difficult to do when you rarely physically step outside for a lunch or coffee break, so here are a few pointers:
a. Be prepared to talk about irregularities in the weather both two weeks in the past, and the forecast up until two weeks in the future. There is nothing that portrays competency like knowing the weather a whole week ahead of everyone else, and being able to recall the wind mph 8 days ago. Elevator rides can sometimes last up to 5 minutes, so in order to keep the conversation flowing, a recap of the morning and evening forecasts from the last week, as well as a review of their accuracy is something you should have in your back pocket, and showcases your critical thinking skills.
b. If you are unsure how to broach a difficult topic with a colleague, like their performance, or asking for a raise, use the weather as a figure of speech. They will immediately know what you are referring to and all parties can avoid the embarrassing nature of direct conversation.
5. Always be prepared to give 3-5 examples
of what your weekend plans could look like; no more, no less
When any opportunity arises to talk about your personal life, it is imperative that your older colleagues think that the 48 hours you spend outside of the office every week is filled with adventure and comprises the other life you must lead as your source of fulfillment. Be careful not to list too many plans, or it might appear you are not working hard enough and have way too much energy to spare.
6. Be uncompromisingly professional
When you see moments of weakness slip through the hard, impenetrable surface of some of your older colleagues, or as I like to call these fleeting revelations of “the human condition,” you must remember never to laugh, or show any sign that you noticed their humanity sneak out for a second. For example, in the case that you show up on time for a phone call to your boss’s office and he is asleep on his desk, by no means should you say or do anything that would indicate you are aware of the situation. Tip-toe into the seat across from his desk, and pretend to take notes. If and when he wakes, tell him you got everything (which you did). You will be respected for your commitment to the task at hand.
7. Think of your desk as a display window for your personality
Because many of your bosses are too shy to ask you about your career goals, what your baby niece looks like, your favorite current meme, and who your pop-culture heroes are, it is catastrophic to leave your desk a barren wasteland of computer screens and manila folders. In order to remind your bosses and colleagues that you are not just another cog in the system and that you have a soul, a “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster, or (even better) a framed “Live, Laugh, Love” mantra are subtle ways to demonstrate your adaptability and hard-working nature in (and out) of the office.
8. Be relatable
Many of your older colleagues and bosses will have a spouse, and/or children. These two other aspects to their lives will come up often in conversation. In order to fit in and to demonstrate maturity, make up an imaginary family and children. I have noticed it helps to create an alter ego altogether in which you are married to your college sweetheart and you have a tasteful two kids. If you are feeling ambitious, you can even hang up a picture of one of your “kids” at your desk. It is a fruitful conversation-starter. Stay away from the first 50 pictures that pop up in Google images, to avoid having to explain why your pretend child was also in a popular Gerber commercial.
9. Get a degree in computer science or IT during the evenings,
or become best friends with the IT department in your building
In many administrative, entry-level jobs, you will often find that a room full of professionals will turn to you when there is a technical issue. You are by no means allowed to do any work that you got your undergraduate degree for or participate in any major decision-making process, but you will find that you are expected to be the spokesperson for Silicon Valley when Adobe Acrobat shut down during the presentation, or why there are five cords of different colors to choose from to connect one person’s computer to the projector.
10. Master the art of copying and pasting
The key to all entry-level jobs is copying and pasting. If you can solve the puzzle of lifting words from one destination and placing them in another destination without deleting and retyping them individually, you have saved yourself hours of work and can probably go home early.