The Breakable & Unbreakable Rules of a 20 Something Professional

1. Don’t mess with the time card: If your job is supposed to be 9-5, then you work 9-5 (or, 5:15 or 5:30 in some cases); now, whatever you do during those hours can be semi-negotiable. Maybe you are in the off season and you really have nothing to do. Well, find something to do, even if it’s reading a book, because, especially if you are on salary, your company is paying you for those hours, and it might turn out that the secretary faints, has to get rushed off in the ambulance, and they need you to man the phones. You just never know. Of course, there are certain times when it’s ok to come in a little late, or leave a little early, but it becomes dangerous when not fulfilling your time card turns into a habit.

2. Do sign up for the stuff no one else wants to do: I am under the impression that no one should ever be too proud to take out the trash, clean the bathroom, or empty the refrigerator. We all use these spaces, and most jobs work under a sense of hierarchy; we give the new people the stuff no one else wants to do, because, at one time, we had to do that ourselves, and we want them to earn their position; as a new person in the company, you start at the bottom of the totem pole, and work your way up. In teaching, this often looks like getting the classes no one else wants to teach, or signing up for duties that no one else wants to sign up for (such as chaperoning dances, sponsoring clubs and activities, going to award nights). And, you do these things now so that you don’t have to do them later.

3. Don’t encroach on other people’s territory: If there was something going on before you got there, and someone has historically been in charge of something, don’t try to do it yourself. For example, if someone in your office is in charge of bringing in donuts to celebrate birthdays, and you decide one day, to bring in a cake on the same day, you are kind of disrupting the tradition that especially the person in charge of will not like. When I started the dance team at my school, the cheer team had already been in existence, and already had ‘territory’ over some of the traditions at school. So, I had to find a way to fit with them without stomping on their traditions, because they were there first.

4. Do make your own new territory: However, if there is something that someone is not doing, and a space for a new tradition, then by all means, take it. As a 20 Something professional, you have to establish yourself as an unexpendable figure, and one way of doing that is making yourself stand out in some kind of way. If no one starts the coffee pot in the morning, then that can be your new duty, a way to mark yourself as important and ambitious in the office. One of my favorite moments in my dance season is the boy-girl Valentine’s Day dance at halftime. The boys are always in a bad mood when I make them practice, and then feel like the king of the world when they get so much attention after their performances. And, since this was something new, something that wasn’t always stamped at the school, it was fair grounds for me to implement.

5. Don’t miss deadlines if it impacts someone else: I am also under the impression that if I want to slack on something, it should be something that no one else suffers from. In my job, if I don’t finish a lesson plan in time, no one is really going to know, because we will do something else instead, and then do the lesson next class. However, if I don’t submit grades in time, and the registrar has to walk to my room, track me down, and tell me I have two minutes to submit grades so that she can figure out who is graduating or not, then that becomes a problem, because I am stalling her job (and her ability to leave at 5). If I have to stay until 5:15 to make sure someone won’t suffer from my tardiness, then I need to do that.

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