5 Office Secrets for College Grads

You just spent four years and countless dollars on your college education in the hopes that it would prepare you for the working world. And while it may have given you the critical thinking, research, writing, and networking skills you need to succeed in your career, there are a few basic tactical maneuvers your college professors probably skipped in lecture. Here’s our cheat sheet of office skills that will make office life easier from day one.

Be Familiar with the Entire Office Suite
For the liberal arts/English majors out there, I’m sure you know Microsoft Word inside and out. And for all you finance majors, you can probably create and concatenate excel spreadsheets in your sleep. But in your new job, sooner or later you’re going to have to use one of those “other” Microsoft Office programs you’re completely unfamiliar with.

You don’t want that to happen during your first week of work, so make sure you know the entire office suite before you start your job. See if your campus career center offers sessions, or you can even check out free tutorials on Microsoft’s website.

Conquer the Fax Machine (and the Copy Machine)
Believe it or not, your worst enemy at the office isn’t the co-workers you’ll fight for that promotion; it’s your office fax, paper shredder, and copy machine. At first glance these machines may seem idiot proof, but ask anyone who’s tried to send a 21-page, double sided document to a Chinese distributor or copy, collate, and hole punch a finance presentation for a company-wide meeting, they can throw a serious wrench in your day.

The good news is that although these machines come in various sizes, shapes, colors, and brands, they all speak pretty much the same language. If you work at a place with these machines in house, ask the administrative staff if you can help with some of their projects to learn the ropes. If all else fails, head to your nearest Kinko’s and get yourself acquainted. You and the copy machine will be old friends in no time, I promise.

Know the ins and outs of Fed Ex
What applies to office machines applies to Fed Ex: sooner or later you’ll need to use it, and it can be much more complicated than it looks. My advice? Learn how to use it long before you’re shipping something really important overseas.

First, find out if and where your office houses its own Fed Ex/UPS materials and labels. Most offices have one person in charge of this department, so find that person and become their new best friend. Ask them to teach you in the ins and outs, and buy them some coffee in return.

Find Out Office Phone Protocol
What’s the first thing you do at a new job? Probably set up your voicemail, just before you set up your office email. But before you do, you need to find out your company phone protocol.

Most offices have a way they like their phones answered and their voicemail set up, specifically in regards to how you introduce yourself, what title you use, and when you mention the company name. Find out how your greetings should be presented, especially before the company CEO calls your line.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help
I know you want to impress everyone in the office, especially because you’re the new kid on the block. But sometimes not asking for help when you’re starting to sink only makes things worse. When you’re in trouble or in doubt, ask your co-workers for their opinions, advice, and expertise. I promise they’ll be more than happy to help; after all, they were once just like you.

Noel Rozny writes myPathfinder, the bi-weekly career blog for the myFootpath website. myFootpath is a resource to help you in your search for a college, degree program, career, graduate school, and non-traditional experiences. Visit myFootpath to start your college or degree program search.

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