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Things I learned from a summer at My Office

August 12, 2013

You get from an experience what you put into it, or at least, that’s the mantra I went with as I commuted to and from Lawrence to work at the Dole Institute almost every weekday this summer. Turns out, the cliché is right, and I learned a few things from a summer at My Office.

For days that require lifting all these boxes from downstairs to upstairs, protein is key. Just one lesson I learned this summer.

For days that require lifting all these boxes from downstairs to upstairs, protein is key. Just one lesson I learned this summer.

1. How to make copies, make labels, use the mailing machine and fold T-shirts properly. These everyday office tasks seem simple (and they are), but an office couldn’t run smoothly without them. And in crunch-time moments, there’s no time to read instructions, so already knowing how the 1-side / 1-side, 1-side / 2-side and 2-side / 1-side buttons on a copier work is crucial.

2. Lawrence doesn’t elect its mayor. In “A Practical Guide to City Politics,” the summer study group, I learned about local – not state, not national, local – politics, which I was pretty ignorant in previously. This has inspired me to investigate Lawrence’s political landscape, which just goes to show inspiration comes from anything.

3. Make a table in Excel because it will be your best friend when you want to arrange the data, hide data and add cells. Seriously, this is an incredible pro tip that they don’t teach you in high school computer applications class.

4. The phone is not THAT scary. It may be anxiety producing at first, but when you’re the only one in the office and HAVE to answer it, you eventually get the hang of it. And if practice doesn’t make perfect, pretending you’re Pam Beesly, “The Office” receptionist, could do the trick.

5. Rolling a Sharpie over folded paper will create the best crease. This makes the program or table tent the flattest. And even though it’s monotonous to roll that Sharpie over 113 table tents, it’s OK to pursue perfection.

6. Someone has to actually stuff the binders. For all those conferences and institutes we’ve all attended, little elves behind the scenes stuff the binders and arrange the tables to make sure the event runs smoothly. As one of those elves, I now have a new appreciation for the little things we don’t usually think about.

7. Protein is key, especially on days that require heavy lifting or endless hours on your feet. Taking a moment to refuel is essential, or headaches will ensue.

8. Technology is fickle. Even at Office Depot, with all its expertise, technology failed three registers before finally accepting coupons during one office field trip. Technology, for all its good, doesn’t always work, which is why patience is a virtue and external hard drives exist.

9. Food – and “The West Wing” – brings people together. A great moment this summer was when all the staff members ate the leftovers from a catered lunch together in the office. It wasn’t a special occasion or particularly fancy food, but it was a lovely lunch with good people who each do their part to carry out our office’s mission. And “The West Wing” is just a given.

10. ALWAYS know something. “What do you know?” There must be something, anything. Something about your job or the world or one of your interests or you. If you don’t have an answer to “what do you know,” do you at least know why you’re here?

11. There is significance in the day-to-day, you just have to seek it. For nine years, NBC aired a television program about an ordinary paper company doing its thing. “The Office” didn’t showcase an extraordinary place to work; it showcased an ordinary one. But as Pam Beesly noted, “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things; isn’t that kinda the point?” Yes, yes, it is.

Have a story or lesson from an ordinary – yet somehow extraordinary – office you’d like to share? Hit the comments!

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