How to Spice Up the Office Working Environment

Associate Banker, New York, NY
General Manager, Washington, DC
Portfolio Management Analyst, Chicago, IL
Marketing Manager, San Francisco, CA
Economic Intern, New York, NY

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The office doesn’t have to be the drab, depressing place it’s often made out to be. First of all, it’s full of the characters that make our lives interesting, dramatic, happy, and stressful day to day. And while you sorta kinda have to focus on the work while you’re there, this doesn’t mean that the company you serve has to suck all the joy out of life. Here are a few ways to put some kick in your Monday through Friday!

Join the Office Extracurriculars

Say your office is part of a softball league or has a bowling club. Right on! Go get involved and recruit others to join in on the fun. And if your office doesn’t partake in these awesome activities, organize them yourself or with a group of coworkers. Your office extracurricular activities are what you make of them, and sadly, many company softball teams lose steam in the second inning. Sure, it’ll take time and effort, but if you feed into the positive energy of these pastimes, you’ll get far more joy out of them.

Go Out to Lunch

No, “going to lunch” with an office buddy doesn’t mean taking your soggy PB&J and “fun size” bag of Doritos to the break room. Get out and explore the neighborhood. Gather a group of friends and try out the new restaurant on the corner. Get your mind off of work and really enjoy your break to its fullest. This will break up your workday and give you that second wind you need to get through the afternoon. And if you’re trying to save money, fine – grab that soggy PB&J and chips and take it down to the park. If you step outside the office for a little while you’ll have a much more positive attitude going into the second half of your day, and chances are you’ll be much more productive at work.

Mix Food and Work

Here we go – another tip centered on food. But it’s true that we derive a lot of satisfaction out of eating. So incorporate it into your workday! Suggest a potluck once a quarter, and ruthlessly hold everyone to it. Assign a different person to bring in baked goods each Friday. Put someone on hot chocolate duty during the winter months. No one will be able to peg work as “dull” if you make it a point to engage all the senses!

It’s important to be happy at work. After all, this is where you spend most of the daylight hours. So don’t discount the value that a little office cheer can add to your life. Always make the most out of your days!

See ya later,
The Doostang Team

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Behaviors that Tarnish Your Office Reputation – Part 2

Financial Planner, New York, NY
Capital Markets Analyst, Houston, TX
Investment Banker, Denver, CO
Brand Marketing Fellow, New York, NY
Corporate M&A Group Associate, Chicago, IL

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Welcome back to our next installment of reputation-tarnishing behaviors at work.  Last time we explored how being too assertive, overextending yourself, and failing to communicate with your boss can all have a negative impact on your status.  Read on for a few more behaviors to avoid if you’re trying to stay on everyone’s good side!

Lack of Coherency

It’s likely that at some point during your job you will have to share your work and progress with either your boss or your coworkers.  And while this may take some extra effort and energy on your part, it’s important to take the time to ensure that what you present to others is clear, logical, and legible.  A presentation that lacks these three factors can really frustrate others, and you may be forced to either rework what you did, spend a good amount of time explaining superfluous details, or have your work be disregarded altogether.  Presenting coherent, understandable work is a show of respect for your audience, so you should do your best to be as clear as possible.

Challenging Your Boss

At all times, no matter what, you should show respect for your boss.  This becomes particularly important when others are around, say, in a team meeting or even just around the office.  It’s okay to disagree with your boss, but set aside a time to do so in private.  If your boss happens to make a mistake in a meeting – and you feel that it’s important to point this out – either try to get the message to your boss discreetly or bring the matter up in as polite a way as possible.  Never try to challenge your boss in public, as this will likely cause you to be perceived as insubordinate.

Focusing Solely on Your Boss

While your relationship with your boss is crucial to your career, it’s important to also cultivate relationships with your coworkers.  These are the people with whom you will be working in teams, and perhaps more importantly, they’re the ones whom you will be working under (or above) when someone is promoted.  Don’t isolate yourself by ignoring your peers, and don’t be seen as a “brown noser” by focusing solely on your boss.  It’s imperative to be friendly with everyone and to be a team player.

Having No Reputation

One interesting point that many fail to consider is having no reputation.  While flying under the radar is certainly preferable to sticking out like a sore thumb, it’s still better to be in great standing at your place of work.  If you show up to work but remain unnoticed, you will likely miss out on many of the privileges afforded to hardworking, friendly, reliable employees.  Having no reputation does not mean that you are none of these things, it just means that you will have to put in a little extra work to be recognized as such.

That’s it for now on behavioral blunders to avoid at work.  As you can see, how you interact with both your coworkers and your boss is extremely important, and it’s worth putting in the extra effort so that people consider you a great component of the team!

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

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Behaviors that Tarnish Your Office Reputation – Part 1

Entry Level Treasury Analyst, San Diego, CA
Administrative Assistant, New York, NY
Research Analyst – Energy, Boston, MA
Consulting Associate, Multiple Locations
Associate, New York, NY

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Maintaining a good reputation at work is a delicate balance.  Because business is business, and there is usually a lot of stress circulating around an office, people are quicker to judge and slower to forgive.  That’s why it’s important to get off to a solid start and do what you can to remain in the good graces of both your superiors and your coworkers.  Here are a few behaviors to avoid:

Asserting Yourself as the New Guy

When you’re the new guy, it can be tempting to want to enter with a bang, but sometimes this can be a huge turnoff.  If you start off trying to revolutionize things too quickly, people might become offended about the fact that you’re trying to change everything around, and put you back in your place.  While you may have the best of intentions, try to hold back just a little bit, adding your two cents when it seems natural or when you are asked – not when you have to fight to get a word in.  When you first get to a company, take some time to learn what they are about and what they are trying to do, and this will likely enable you to contribute in a more valuable way.  After all, you may feel that you have some very enlightened observations to provide, but these may have already been observed previously (possibly more than once), and broaching the same topic all over again will just make everyone feel like you’re beating a dead horse.

Overextending Yourself

Many people feel that they will actually build a greater reputation by being a “Yes Man”.  Indeed, all companies value reliable employees.  But if you get to the point where you are saying “yes” to everything, you may reach a point where the quality of all of your work suffers, or you may find yourself unable to get to certain projects at all.  It’s important to learn what you can and cannot do, and to budget your time wisely.  It’s perfectly fine to explain to your boss that you simply have too much on your plate to take on another project at the moment – he or she will likely respect you for this.

Failing to Check In

Your boss manages a lot of people, and by extension, manages a lot of projects.  He has a lot on his plate, and so you figure you’ll spare him the headache by getting your work done first and then running it by him.  But this can be a huge mistake.  If you’re working on a big project, it’s probably a good idea to update your boss on your progress and allow him to offer feedback.  Managers like to feel that they are a part of the work, and may become aggravated when you try to run off with it on your own.  Additionally, when you fail to check in and end up doing something incorrectly, you’ll create more work for yourself and irritate your boss even more.

As you can see, much of maintaining a good reputation at work relies on learning how to communicate well – and this means being able to talk as well as listen.  So avoid the above pitfalls, and stay tuned for our next installment of behaviors that have the propensity to ruin an individual’s work reputation!

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

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Tips for Staying Organized

Research Analyst, New York, NY
Experienced Consultant, Chicago, IL
Sr. Accountant, Greenwich, CT
Strategy Intern, Birmingham, AL
Analyst, San Francisco, CA

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For many, the constant fight to stay organized can cause stress and cut productivity.  Worse still, it can lead individuals to make mistakes that can have grave consequences for their jobs.  If this sounds like a problem you struggle with, read on for some tips on how to cut the clutter out of your life.

Track, List, and Sort

One of the best ways to stay on top of your projects and deadlines is by developing a system that allows you to track what you have to do and where you stand in terms of getting it done.  Consider creating a list outlining all your projects and their respective due dates.  Alternatively, designate a file or bin for all of the paperwork that you need to go through, and place the most important stuff on top.  Once you’ve done this, make sure to check things off your list as you get them done, or move projects from one bin to another once they have been addressed.

Regroup

While in the midst of your work, it’s helpful to take a few breathers where you pause to consider what you’ve completed and what still needs to be done.  Doing so ensures that you don’t get distracted or miss anything important.  This is where your list or designated project bin will be helpful.

Take Advantage of Every Minute

There are many tasks that can be completed in a short period of time, such as filing documents, shooting off a few quick emails, or making copies.  So instead of putting off these small activities for a later date, do them while you’re thinking about them and likely have a few moments to spare.  Putting them aside for later will only create a backlog of tedious work.

Create Space

There’s nothing worse than losing yourself under a pile of papers.  Try to free up space on your desk by creating files or bins into which you can sort random piles of papers.  This will also help you to track down important documents more easily when you need them.

Throw it Away!

When things start to pile up, take some time to go through everything and throw stuff away.  A good rule is that if you haven’t looked at something in several months, or if you’re unsure about a particular document but it’s something you can easily replace, toss it.  People get attached to their paperwork or worry that they might need it at a later date, and ultimately just end up creating more of a mess than anything else.  Don’t be afraid to utilize your trash bin!

The problem with staying organized is that it’s not a one-time overhaul.  Rather, it’s an ongoing process where you constantly have to make lists, shuffle papers around, and throw things away.  But if you get into good habits now, staying organized won’t seem so trying later on!

Keep it clean,

The Doostang Team

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Doostang News January 24: How to be a Team Player

Jr. Equity Analyst, New York, NY
Senior Analyst, Washington, DC
Analyst, Los Angeles, CA
Jr. Associate, New York, NY
Investment Analyst, Boston, MA

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Being successful at work is about more than just your own personal achievements at a company – it’s about working well together with others.  After all, this is how you contribute to the success of a company, which is the whole reason you are there.  And being a team player at work is about more than just collaborating on projects (this is, after all, your job), it’s also about your attitude and the gestures you make to convey that you’re a part of the team.  Integrate a few of the following pointers into your routine in order to collaborate more with your fellow workers.

Volunteer for Projects

There are always those projects that will come up at work that require a few more helping hands.  So even if said project doesn’t exactly fall under your job description, offer to help out if the team needs some extra manpower.  You’ll really help out your coworkers, people will appreciate your efforts, and you might learn something new that can help you out in your own work.

Offer to Help a Coworker

If you sense that a coworker is falling behind on their work or that they’re going to be staying late that evening working on a big project, ask them if there’s anything you can do to lighten the load.  It’s often better for the company if the project is finished more quickly, and you may help that coworker catch something that they might have missed in the anxiety of tackling such a large task in the first place.

Go to Lunch

Some people like to use their lunch breaks as a chance to run errands, catch up on emails or phone calls, or get away from the office for an hour; but make it a point at least once a week or a few times a month to sit down and talk with your coworkers over a meal.  You may find that the peers who are high-strung throughout the rest of the day are really neat people during their down time when they aren’t thinking of the work at hand.

Take Part in Company Activities

Whether it’s a potluck, a birthday celebration, or an office contest, try to get involved in company activities when these come up.  If your office is part of a recreational softball league but you just aren’t athletic, show your support by cheering on your coworkers from the stands.  Taking part in the extracurricular activities of your office makes work more enjoyable for you, as well as endears you more to your coworkers, who may work more productively with you as a result.

Not everyone is a natural socialite, but even if you are shy or new to the company, there are still ways to be a team player.  Ultimately, your coworkers will appreciate your efforts, and will reach out to you more as a result.

Time for a good ol’ group hug!

The Doostang Team

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Doostang News December 20: The Art of Office Gift Giving

Research Associate, New York, NY
Business Analyst, San Francisco, CA
Investment Analyst, Portland, OR
Graphic Designer, Los Angeles, CA
Private Equity Intern, New York, NY

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Holiday shopping for your loved ones can be hard enough, but trying to find the perfect gift for your boss or coworker can really add to your holiday stress.  Should you even get one in the first place?  And what’s appropriate?  Read on for some guidelines…

Understand the Office Policy

Offices can have some pretty complicated policies when it comes to gift giving.  After all, a company wants to avoid bribery or favoritism, and gifts around the holidays can get into some gray area.  Generally larger corporations are the ones that will have rules regarding what’s appropriate to give, so make sure you check before you stroll into the office with a toy sack slung over your shoulder.

Don’t Go Overboard

While you may be in a very giving mood this holiday season, it’s advisable not to go overboard with the gifts you pass out.  Organized office gift exchanges will generally have price limits in place, but if you’re going out on your own, don’t purchase anything that’s too extravagant or expensive.

Keep it Simple

Some good ideas for gifts include food baskets containing cookies, fruit, or candy – perfect for a coworker to share with his or her family.  You can also try exotic plants, or something that might be useful in the office.  Gift certificates are also a nice way to show your appreciation.  Yeah, all this stuff can seem boring and unoriginal, but you never know how another person’s taste might differ from yours, and it’s best to stay on the safe side.  You should avoid giving gifts that are tasteless or controversial, and stay away from giving clothes.  The bottom line here is to use your best judgment.  If you’re great friends with a coworker outside of the office, or have a really relaxed company culture, you probably have more latitude on gift options.

No Hurt Feelings

If you’re not going to be showering everyone in the office with presents, you probably shouldn’t make a big show of presenting a select few individuals with gift-wrapped goods.  Try to exchange gifts outside of the office or during after hours.  If this is impossible, do so discreetly.

Thanks and Come Again Next Year!

One final note – write a thank you note! It’s true that you don’t have to purchase something for every person who went out of his or her way to give you a gift, but you should remember to say thank you.  Writing a quick thank you note is a considerate gesture…and it locks you in to receive more cool stuff next holiday season!

Happy holidays,

The Doostang Team

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Doostang News September 6: Tips for New Employees

Analyst, Boston, MA
Brand Strategist – Advertising, Marketing, Analytics, New York, NY
M&A Analyst, San Diego, CA
Business Development Associate, Cambridge, MA
Full-Time Analyst Intern – (Fall), New York, NY

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The first day jitters end pretty much with the first day on the job, and the nervousness you feel about being in a new place dissipates pretty quickly after that. It’s easy then to cut corners and fall into habits that you see around you – things that the seasoned veterans of the company do without blinking an eye. But even though you may have the same level of responsibility as your coworkers, there is still a certain etiquette that you must follow while you are new on the job. Consider these pointers:

Connect with Your Boss

While many of your coworkers may embark on projects or make decisions without running them by their superior, you should make sure to check in with your boss when you are doing these things. You may find out pretty quickly that your boss actually likes when the employees take initiative without being asked; but until you do, assume that you should keep your boss in the loop at all times. You might think that you’re making the correct decision on something, but you’re still new and you don’t know if your boss has certain policies on things or if there are exceptions to rules.

Don’t Get Distracted

You may find that you work in a very easygoing office environment when you show up on day one, but this does not mean that you should take as many liberties as you see your coworkers doing. These people have been with the company longer than you and they have proven their value over time. Without a track record to back you up, you may just look like you’re wasting time.

Stay Positive

Even though your coworkers will probably want to put on a good show for the “new guy”, you’ll oftentimes encounter complaining or gossiping. While you may be equally stressed out about showing up to work on a certain day, avoid broadcasting this to the rest of the office like some of your peers might be doing. Try to act graciously about being there, and make it a point to be friendly to everyone – even the people that get on your nerves from the very outset.

While all workers are created equal in an office environment, as the newbie, you don’t have equal right to get distracted, act negatively, or take off on your own. So focus on the work at hand and the office relationships you need to cultivate, and the rest will follow eventually.

Welcome to the club,

The Doostang Team

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Doostang News August 23: Some Pointers for Requesting Time Off

Investment Banking Associate , New York, NY
Consultant, Washington, DC
Venture Capital Associate, San Francisco, CA
Human Resources Associate, New York, NY
Analyst, Chicago, IL

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Requesting time off can feel a tad awkward.  Sure, you’re entitled to a life – but does your employer know that?  Many of us encounter frustration from managers or passive aggressiveness from coworkers when we make mention of our hiatus from the office.  So what’s the best way to slip out for a week or two unscathed?  Read on:

Give Plenty of Notice

While the standard notice for leaving a job is generally two weeks, it’s best to let your boss and coworkers know about an upcoming vacation as far ahead as you can.  Sooner really is better because it gives your peers enough time to digest the news and plan ahead for it.  Doing so will also make your own life easier, as more preparation beforehand will ensure a less messy aftermath when you return.  And really, what’s worse than returning from paradise to an office where all hell has broken loose?

Put Together a Plan

It will also make everyone’s life easier if you put together a plan, including a schedule that your coworkers can follow, important deadlines, and contact information – both for the people others will need to deal with on your behalf, and for you, should any emergencies arise.  The more thorough you are upfront, the fewer frantic calls and emails you’ll have to deal with when you’re miles away.

Don’t Jet During a Busy Time

While it may be tempting to flee the office during one of the busier periods, you’ll probably anger the people you work with if you do.  It’s more considerate to plan a vacation when you know things will be slow around the office, so that others can more easily take over for you.

Don’t Overlap

If possible, gauge when your coworkers might be taking time off, so that you can make sure not to jump ship at the same time.  Worse than missing one valuable employee is missing two – or more – so try to plan your time off strategically.  It may also be helpful to have these discussions with coworkers before you book your getaway, as some bosses may deny you time off if another employee will be gone at the same time.

It’s tempting to take off and leave as little information behind as possible when you’re trying to escape the office.  But some thoughtful planning beforehand will go much farther in ensuring a well-deserved, stress-free break!

Bon voyage!
The Doostang Team

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Doostang News July 5: Give Yourself a Break – How to Avoid Work on Vacation

Financial Analyst, New York, NY
Business Development Professional, Multiple Locations
Venture Capital Associate, San Francisco, CA
Market Research Analyst, Cincinnati, OH
Pre-MBA Analyst, New York, NY

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Summer break is finally upon the hordes of schoolchildren and college co-eds.  Hooray for them, right?  Meanwhile, you’re still stuck in the office June through August, missing out on hot, lazy weekdays and prime pool hours.  So when your precious vacation is finally upon you, what are the first things you check to make sure you have?  If you’re like the majority of modern men and women, you’re probably carrying on board a laptop and cell phone that your coworkers can reach you on.  Americans have a penchant for working on vacation, when it’s all things “work” that they’re trying to leave behind.  Here’s some friendly advice for leaving the office for a couple glorious weeks each year:

Delegate Tasks to Others

In the days and weeks leading up to your time off, start making notes of important details, deadlines, and contact information so that you can easily pass off your responsibilities to someone else while you are away.  Start familiarizing those people with the tasks that will be left to them so that the whole office can function smoothly in your absence.

Plan around Busy Periods

If you know you are always busy around a certain time of year, make sure to plan your vacation well in advance of this time or a little ways beyond it.  Similarly, if you have a big deadline to meet, make sure your vacation won’t coincide with it.  A vacation is meant to be stress-free, so don’t travel at a time when your presence in the office is vital.

Set Limits for Yourself

If you absolutely must do work while away, set a reasonable schedule for yourself and stick to it.  Don’t leave all of your contact information while away for the entire office, but instead, leave an emergency phone number for one or two people in case it is imperative that they get ahold of you.  Allot half an hour each day to think about work, and let your coworkers know that you will check in with them instead of having them get in touch with you in a way that interferes with your time off.

You work hard year round…so when you finally get some time off, enjoy yourself.  It’s important that life back at the office doesn’t spiral out of control while you’re away, but it’s equally important that you get some relaxing downtime so that you don’t have a meltdown and complicate office matters on your own.

Bon voyage!

The Doostang Team

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Doostang News June 21 – Office Tips for the Recent Graduate

Investment Analyst, New York, NY
Research Analyst, Boston, MA
Private Equity Associate, Chicago, IL
Entry Level Consultant, Houston, TX
Financial Consultant, Los Angeles, CA

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Earning a degree is a huge feat, something you should celebrate and be proud of. And while the thrill of throwing your cap into the air may not wear off for months to come, it’s important to keep things in perspective when you step foot into the office. The real world is much larger than the classroom, and you will suddenly find yourself dealing with a more varied array of people. Here are a few pointers that will help ease that transition from dorm room to boardroom.

Lose the Sense of Entitlement

You’re on an even playing field with your peers from Day 1 – if anything, you actually have something to prove. So don’t assume that since you have just graduated from a top institute, people are going to give you extra credit; you left that behind in the classroom. Perhaps others will praise you for your stellar education, but that doesn’t give you license to act like a know-it-all or to make even subtle demands about what you need and what you are there for. If you start getting a big head, you’re going to get knocked down a few pegs very quickly. Instead, behave graciously. Don’t assume anything, and go out of your way to be friendly and an eager learner. That will endear you more to your coworkers than the letters behind your name.

Advocate for Yourself

No one in the office will be watching or evaluating you as they did so painstakingly back at the university, so if you don’t assert yourself, you might get overlooked. When you complete a big project, make sure to go over it with your boss. Ensure that your superiors are aware of the work you have done, and show a greater level of involvement by offering to review it with them. Your coworkers are busy people, so if you don’t pipe up just a little bit, they may temporarily overlook your efforts, or worse, dismiss you altogether.

Lay Low

Somewhat of a juxtaposition to our last tip, laying low is important when you first enter a job as a recent grad. Of course, you should never let your office accomplishments fly under the radar – make sure to bring those up with the Big Guy – but you should hang back a little while until you can tune into the vibe of your office. What does this mean? It means that you should figure out how your peers like to work and try to assimilate. Do people like to collaborate on projects? Or do they have a more independent working style? Is the office a casual environment where people sport T-shirts and sandals each day? Or are you expected to wear a suit and tie Monday through Friday? Some of these answers may be fairly obvious at the outset, but it’s important to really get the lay of the land before you inadvertently disrupt the harmony.

Trading in campus, 1PM lectures, and hoodies for the office, 7AM meetings, and starched collars can come as a bit of a shock. But if you keep these simple pointers in mind you’ll pick up the new routine and discover some new joys – office softball leagues, Friday cupcakes from Betty at the front desk, gift exchanges, etc. – in no time!

Here’s to getting older and wiser!

The Doostang Team

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