Lessons

The Office Survival Guide

The first office job I had was in Australia for a software company, and things were pretty casual around there. Most days I showed up straight from a dawn patrol session at Currumbin, and was still wearing my boardshorts with a t-shirt and Havis. Wearing a collared golf or polo shirt was getting dressed up. Wearing a button down shirt meant you were crazy. Things at my current jobĀ  are a little different, and in the past year and half of being a "real guy," I've learned a lot about what it takes to be prepared in the office.

When I first started at my current company, I was the go-to guy for events. Some weeks, I was going to an event almost every single night and had some early-morning breakfast events thrown in there as well. The life of an awards ceremony-attendee was glamorous, but also taxing. To stay my sharpest, I started keeping a kit at work.

It included:

A complete change of clothes

I don't mean just a spare shirt here - I mean a entire outfit. When you've been at a breakfast at 6am, had meetings all day, and then had to go out for dinner that night you'll be glad that you had a clean white shirt to change into. Keeping a sports coat or suit jacket around is always a good idea, because you'll want to look your best if you get called into a last-minute meeting. Same goes for having an extra tie or two around the office.

Even if you don't think you'll need a more formal outfit for going out for dinner or to an important meeting, its still a good idea to keep a change at the office. A few weeks ago I was having lunch with a friend when she spilled her coffee all over the front of my shirt and pants. Had I not been prepared, it would have been a long afternoon.

Toiletries

When I was teaching English in Japan, I realized that all of the teachers at the Junior High School I worked at brushed their teeth after lunch. So did all of the kids, and after a few days of feeling like a dirty foreigner I too started bringing my toothbrush to work. To the delight of my dentist, this is a habit I've kept up. I also keep deodorant (both a stick of my preferred brand Speed Stick and a can of spray-on Axe for when I need that extra effect); a razor and shaving cream; and hair gel.

Cash

One of the things that my dad taught me is that you should always carry a bit of cash. You never know when you'll forget your lunch, have to pay for a taxi or want to buy a cute girl a drink. Even in this day and age, not everyone takes debit or credit cards (and bank machines are always broken when you need them), so its always a good idea to have a little bit of money hidden at your desk for when you need it.

This might all sound like overkill, but it is way better to have this stuff and never need to use it than to not have it and wish you did.

What goes in your office kit?

-Parker

Getting Started Online Part One: Twitter

Getting Started Online

Over the course of the summer, a bunch of my friends have started to express interest in starting their own blogs.

One group of friends feels that having a blog will help create an online presence for their band, A Northern Drawl.

Another friend created a blog to share her stories of late-night debauchery and celebrity searching in Toronto.

My friend Sarah asked me to help her set up a blog for her trip to South America.

And my new roomate told me that he wants to start a blog to use as an online resume for his video work (I'm hoping that my other roommate will resume writing the always-excellent T-zero blog about Toronto culture and breakfast now that he has returned from an overseas stint).

In short, they all want an online presence for themselves and since I'm known amongst them as "the guy that knows stuff about the internets," they've come to me for advice.

While I'll be happily helping them when I get a chance, I thought I'd also share some of the advice I'm giving them with the readers of BlogCampaigning. Hopefully you'll be able to give them some additional advice, or point them in the right direction when you think I've lead them astray.

My advice for starting off has been that they should get a Twitter account.

Why? Because Setting up an account on Twitter is a lot like starting a blog.

Following people, having them follow you and experimenting with some of the tools that work with Twitter are a great introduction to how things like RSS and other social media tools work. For example, I showed my roommate how he could set up an account on The Hype Machine (a website we both think is pretty sweet) so that everytime he favorited a song there it would alert his Twitter followers.

Customizing Your Twitter Profile

Customizing your Twitter profile is also a good introduction to customizing your own blog and working with web tools. I've got nothing against blogs based on templates or Twitter accounts that use the default colors and background image, but I think that taking the extra step in customization is very important. Just as Seth Godin equates downloading and installing Firefox as the equivalent to applying for college or university. As he writes: "the kind of person that puts the effort into getting into and completing college is also the kind of person who succeeds at other things."
twitter colors


Customizing your Twitter profile will help you learn about image editing (as you decide what to use as your profile image and as a background image) and hexadecimal colors. If you aren't quite sure what you want your blog to look like, playing around with colors and images on Twitter is an easy way to get started.

Doing this sort of customization will also help people identify you more easily, and will help distinguish you from the legions of spammers (when was the last time you followed someone that didn't have a Twitter profile pic? When was the last time you subscribed to a blog based on an unmodified Kubrick template?).

Online Conversations

"I don't really get it," "how do I know who to talk to?" and "who is going to want to listen to what I have to say?" are three of the most common things I hear from my friends when I'm telling them about how to get started on Twitter.

My response to this is to just dive in and get started. I wrote before how I thought that Twitter is like an online cocktail party, full of different conversations that you can either choose to ignore or join (just like a real cocktail party). In both cases, no one cares if you are a wallflower and just listen. Chances are, they won't interact with you either. To be part of the "conversation" you'll have to speak up. In Twitter, this amounts to sharing links that you think are interesting, responding to things other people have said, or simply adding your own opinion ("conversation" in quotation marks because I'm cringing at how cliched that word has become even though it is the only one that works here).

Can you think of any other advice for them?

Maybe tell them directly - my roommate Claudio is @Clizz on Twitter, my friend Sarah's blog is Alpaca For Dinner, my colleague Jessica is @JessicaSine on Twitter and my friend Katie is @Vandertramp on Twitter (her website is Mischief, Mayhem, Parties and Boys). You might also want to check out A Northern Drawl - although the only have a MySpace page right now, I'm excited to help them promote their music and develop and online presence for themselves.

If you're in Toronto (or love it or are thinking of visiting) be sure and check out my other roommate's blog Tzero. It is especially great if you're looking for reviews of breakfast places in the downtown area.

-Parker