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How to Navigate a New Work Culture

We spend a ridiculous amount of time at work — here are a few tips for making the best of it

I started working when I was 14 ½ years old. For two summers, I worked as a lifeguard for several neighborhoods and spent my days teaching swim lessons and facilitating pool birthday parties. My guess is that I’ll be working full-time until I turn 55 — so, if I work 40 hours a week for the next 34 years I’m looking at over 70,000 hours of work. 70,000 hours!! Needless to say, adapting to your job and the culture it cultivates is imperative.

Today, I work at Mischief Management, a fandom company dedicated to providing exceptional fan events for passionate people!  Every person in the office comes from a different background, but we’re all fiercely excited about the work we do. Together, we threw our very first event — LeakyCon (a convention for Harry Potter fans). It’s an amazing place to work, but it’s made me think a lot about how your work environment can impact life outside of work and how you operate internally.

Be Observant

Much like any social environment, it pays to be observant. Taking note of your co-workers’ habits, what they’re interested in, and how they operate is important! Do the people in your office socialize a lot throughout the day? Are your coworkers team players or constantly in competition with each other (and you)? Is lunch a solo affair or a group get-together? Is everyone in your office into a certain activity or show? It can be difficult to feel like you belong in a place where people have habits, behaviors, or preferences different than yours, but sometimes adapting can be as easy as inviting a colleague to try the new Thai restaurant up the street, or catching the latest episode of Game of Thrones so you can contribute to the conversation.

I am in an unique position, because the work we do is so fun and each of us has some sort of tie to the work that we do. It draws us together and serves as a way for us to bond, but I’ve felt myself get so caught up that I forget to know my coworkers outside of their Harry Potter house. Getting to know people as individuals and not just co-workers can make your days shorter and help to enhance your work environment.

Listen to Yourself

Work cultures can be strong. If, for some reason, the culture is “too much” or becomes detrimental to your health, listen to that voice.

For example, if a coworkers’ offhand comment rubs you the wrong way, find a break in your day to process what happened. As time passes, if similar situations arise and you aren’t able to cope — take the best steps for you. Those steps could be contacting human resources, seeking another job opportunity, or speaking to that person directly. You spend most of your time with the people at your job, so don’t be afraid to take the necessary steps to ensure that a bulk of your time isn’t miserable.

(I write this, but I know that not everyone has the security/comfortability to speak up about situations like this and risk their job. So, take this with a grain of salt!)

Write (And Reflect)!

After 8-hour days, sometimes all I want to do is go home, sit down, eat, and then lay down for the night. But taking time to reflect on how you’re feeling at work, what’s going on outside of work, and how you want to optimize your time outside of your 9-5 is so worth the effort..

A great way to do reflect is to journal. When I write in journals I like to use a specific type of pen and for my handwriting to match...it’s extra, I know! But I’ve also found some great online journal websites that allow me to jot my thoughts and feelings down from my laptop or phone.

Right now I’m experimenting with Penzu. It’s free, and super easy to use. It allows you to customize your journal and passcode protect it as well.

But writing isn’t the only way to reflect. Talking about your day with a friend, family member, or significant other can help you make sense of how you’re feeling about your job. The people who know you best can also tell how good a fit your job is for you, often better than you can — they’re a lot harder to fool than yourself. If you’re constantly coming home from work upset or in a bad mood, that should be telling both for them and for you to recognize that something isn’t working.

You don’t have to be best friends with your coworkers, and your workplace won’t necessarily be your favorite place in the world, but it’s important that it’s environment is conducive to supporting you in your work, and a place where you can be content.

By Gwendolyn Smith

Gwendolyn Smith is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Social Media Manager at Mischief Management in New York City. @gwenrenee

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