Working It at Work: The 3 Golden Rules

By Holly Russel, Regular ContributorAugust 31, 2015

Starting a job is exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. I’ve been working for 12 years now, and while there are some things that still confuse me (do I put a 0 or a 1 on my W4?!?), I’ve learned a lot of lessons that I think women need to hear.

You probably know the basics like “dress professionally” and “don’t pilfer office supplies,” but I’d like to offer some unspoken pitfalls to avoid when you start a new job.

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Here are my three golden rules for working it at work:

1.  Do NOT accept a first offer on your salary.

I cannot stress this strongly enough. While entry level positions don’t pay big bucks, you can and should negotiate your compensation. The fact of the matter is, your starting salary has a HUGE impact on how much money you’ll make for the next decade (or more) of your life. If I have one regret in my career so far it is that I have never negotiated my starting salary. I always felt grateful to be offered the position and took it without any push back on compensation. What I didn’t realize (and what you may not realize) is that companies make a low offer initially because they expect you to negotiate. Why would they put their best offer on the table if they might get away with paying you less? Their first offer is never their best offer. And you know who is negotiating a higher starting salary? Your male colleagues. Step up to the plate and ask for more.

2.  Don’t be the girl with the candy jar.

It would be wonderful if true gender equality existed but it simply does not. Be very careful of assuming a mothering role or being overly service-y at work. Everyone may love the marshmallow brownies your bake for the office and think it’s swell that you always have candy on your desk and Band-Aids in your drawer, but acting like a den mother will make people take you less seriously, or worse, perceive you as weak. Time and time again I see women stay behind to clean up after an office party or catered meeting while the men simply leave and go back to their desks. If you are not the administrative person in charge of food prep and clean up, don’t do it. You are not a waitress, and no one’s ever going to promote you because you always help pick up after the party.

3.  Don’t leave a single minute of paid time off on the table.

Last year I realized I had more than 100 hours of PTO accrued……in November (womp womp). By that time there was no way to take all of my vacation days before the end of the year. And so, 40+ hours of my hard-earned time went to waste. It can be tempting to put in long hours and never take days off while you’re young and proving yourself, but please do not shortchange yourself when it comes to vacation. You are entitled to take it. It is part of your compensation package. Put in your PTO requests and go somewhere fabulous!

Making your mark at a new job is a fun and interesting challenge, and it is immensely rewarding when you get great feedback on the work you’re doing. I hope my advice inspires you to ask for what you want, act like a boss, and take what is rightfully yours. I’ll see you in the Caribbean on Spring Break. ;)

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About Holly

HOLLY_RUSSEL_writer_bio_(1).jpgHolly Russel has a BA in Journalism from New York University. She’s a Senior Marketing Copywriter for a pet health company and counts dogs among her favorite things on the planet – along with tacos, books, social media, and the City of New York. When she makes it out from behind the computer screen, Holly spends her time practicing yoga, kayaking, and indoor cycling. She lives and writes in Wilmington, NC. 


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