Teach me how to adult at an adult job
August 18, 2020 10:38 AM   Subscribe

For many years I was an academic. Now I have a real job and I'm realizing that while I know how to do the work (that's why they hired me), I don't know how to "have a job". I've never used outlook (any aspect). I've never had a boss to report to. I don't know how to organize myself. Please help or point me to resources to teach me. Also, I'm working from home so I can't just casually ask people things.

Academics can get away with a lot via the absent-minded professor trope. Missed bureaucratic deadlines, not responding to emails, certain kinds of skipping meetings (obviously not all meetings). And we mostly get to do whatever we want.

What's the best way to keep a list of things I've been told to do, when they should be done by and/or the order in which they should be done?

How do I handle email, especially emails that are mainly FYI. What about those CC'ed to me that are either FYIs or questions to other people.

Am I supposed to tell someone when I've done work that doesn't really have a deliverable. e.g. I have to do e-training and I have a stack of journal articles I've been asked to read. Am I supposed to report "I read these today" or something like that?

Explain to me how microsoft calender works.

My boss told me she has "the apps" on her phone. What apps might those be? Will they mix up my personal and work email? I don't want that.

There are probably a million more things about having a job that I don't know. If there's a "having a job for beginners" article out there, that would be great. I feel very silly asking these questions mid-career.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (31 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
does your employer have HR or an IT department? They could probably give you a list of what apps to download
posted by shaademaan at 10:41 AM on August 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

You might find the questions and answers on Ask A Manager useful as vicarious office work experience. Some of them are real nightmare scenarios that you will almost certainly never encounter, but a lot of them are discussions about what's acceptable behaviour from colleagues/managers and how to pick your battles. If that's the sort of context you're looking for.
posted by Lorc at 10:50 AM on August 18, 2020 [10 favorites]

Your new work should have some dedicated onboarding time to set clear expectations such as what "the apps" are. If they don’t, this is their mistake. Now is the best time for you to ask clueless questions, and maybe even assemble an onboarding guide as you learn to share with future new staff.
posted by migurski at 10:56 AM on August 18, 2020 [8 favorites]

"The apps" probably refers to the Outlook app. Maybe Teams if this company uses Teams. While you can set up most mail applications on your phone to receive your work email, I actually prefer to keep my work email in the separate Outlook app. Then you can manage notifications accordingly (always/never/sometimes see new emails as they come in) which helps with work/life balance.

Microsoft has some pretty decent support and training online. That's a good place to start if you literally don't know how to do something (or just ask Google "how to invite coworkers to a meeting" or whatever it is you need).

Managing a to do list is down to personal preference. My preferences shift, but right now I just use a moleskine style notebook and start a new two-page spread at the beginning of each week. I also color code each task with different color pens, but I'm a weirdo like that. You could also use the build in To Do list functionality in Outlook.

Generally for a mid-career level position it would be expected that you do much of your own prioritizing, but while you're new it would be totally understandable to ask your boss to help with prioritizing. Ask for deadlines or a sense of how important a project is when something is assigned to/requested of you. Consider the Eisenhower matrix or other similar framework to make sure you aren't managing your workload ONLY based on deadlines - sometimes really important big picture work has looser deadlines but that doesn't mean putting it off forever.
posted by misskaz at 10:58 AM on August 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

My boss told me she has "the apps" on her phone. What apps might those be? Will they mix up my personal and work email? I don't want that.

Depends what apps these are. Do they provide you with a work phone, or expect you to use your personal phone? I will use my personal phone for work but only for calls/texts, and some people won't do that. I'm careful who I give my number out to, and those people don't bother me on days off/after hours, so it's ok. In some companies, giving your personal number out means people will never leave you alone.

If they want you to download company apps, take a look at their BYOD (bring your own device) policy. Sometimes if your phone is lost, or for other reasons, they retain the right to wipe it. Some people are ok with that, especially when the company will then pay for some or all of your phone plan. I absolutely would not agree to that. It's reasonable in that case to ask them to provide a work phone and keep them completely separate. I've had friends do that successfully, even in companies where pretty much everyone used their personal phone for work.

What's the best way to keep a list of things I've been told to do, when they should be done by and/or the order in which they should be done?

Write everything down! It sounds simple although isn't always. The trick is finding a system that works for you. I used to use an excel sheet and had everything that I needed to do in a week on there, and would arrange it by day and morning/afternoon, and change it around each day as necessary. It took me a long time to perfect it, but worked well for a long time. I now use amazingmarvin.com (recommended by someone on here). It has a learning curve, but is a great piece of very customizable software. The web app is way better than the phone app, but the nice thing about the phone app is that you can very easily enter in something into your to do list when you aren't at your computer, then you can categorize it and schedule it later at your computer. Some people do a small notebook and pen they carry everywhere. Find what works for you. It will take trial and error, believe me.

Also, build extra time into your schedule - things always come up and you need to account for that. Also build in time for longer-term projects, so you don't get pulled into shorter-term things at the expense of longer/bigger projects.

How do I handle email, especially emails that are mainly FYI. What about those CC'ed to me that are either FYIs or questions to other people.

Ugh. Good luck. Haven't ever figured this one out. Email is the worst invention ever. I'll be watching this thread.
posted by sillysally at 11:01 AM on August 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

For emails that are FYI, you will figure out your office culture. At my job, if it's an FYI or ICYMI, I usually don't respond at all. If it's a directive but sent out to me and a large group, I will reply just to the original sender with something quick, like "got it!" If I'm BCC'd on something that has nothing for me to do, I know it's just to keep me in the loop and I don't respond, or if I do, I say something like "thanks for letting me know," again just to the main sender.

I don't report each little task I do; I just do them, but I make sure to track in my calendar what I did on what days, so that I can talk about it with my boss if they ask. Mostly they don't ask. Again, this is a job culture thing, some jobs expect you to say "hey I read those journal articles."

As for "the apps," there is an outlook app you can download, which will send your outlook email to your phone. I always kept mine in the separate app because I didn't want it to mix with my personal email in my Mail app. Agree IT or some other onboarding person should be accessible to help you navigate this part--probably not your boss, if not IT I would try whoever did your new hire paperwork with you.

For day-organizing, I used my calendar to block out specific dates and times for tasks until I got into a groove. I also use physical to-do lists on a post it on my desk, even when working from home.
posted by assenav at 11:02 AM on August 18, 2020

1. Make a habit to send your manager an executive summary of your work, at the end of every week. One format is the PPOP : Progress, Problems, Opportunities, Plan. This is a very good rhythm to get into. Schedule a brief check-in with your manager for them to give you directions with the summary in hand. Once you train your manager this way, you won't get bombarded during the week with questions.

2. Some managers have a saying : "Don't bring me problems, bring me solutions." Any time you identify a problem, come up with a solution or two to present along with it. This will establish that you are a problem solver.

3. You might know this all already: the real job is to make your manager look good. In many fields, your career will advance not through what you accomplish, but through cultivation of your network, beginning with the manager. Rising executive stars are looking to build a team that they bring with them to their next company. It might be like that in academia too.

3. Microsoft Outlook has a phone app. Depending on the company, it can be local culture to have Outlook and Calendar on a personal phone. Find out from a peer/colleague what the usual practice is and if you can be reimbursed.
posted by dum spiro spero at 11:02 AM on August 18, 2020 [15 favorites]

People tend to have their own systems for keeping track of tasks. I use a very modified version of "Getting Things Done", bullet journals are another popular approach. Some people just use running 'to-do' lists. When there's no deliverable, I tend not to both telling my boss that I've completed things unless they ask. In terms of prioritisation of tasks, this is something I have helped people with when I have managed them, but the more senior you are the more you are expected to figure it out on your own. I do still ask my boss for help if I'm new to a job or not sure.

I strongly recommend that you find a friendly peer. Someone at the same seniority level as you and ideally with the same boss. But friendly as the most important factor. I know a bunch of people in my org who would be happy to explain stuff like this to you about how our place works and who would be sympathetic to your experience. Ask a manager, as recommended above is an excellent resource for both horror stories and best practice.
posted by plonkee at 11:03 AM on August 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

A few things I like to see in a coworker:
  • Show up for meetings, on time.
  • If you're more than a minute late to a meeting, apologize for being late. Meetings are often huge time wasters and nobody likes having their time wasted.
  • Respect the time of others. Don't schedule useless meetings that could have been an email. Conversely, if you think you think it would be faster just to talk to someone than endure several hours of back-and-forth email, meet with them.
  • Thank people when they respond with a useful response to emails that you sent.
  • Thank people in general.
  • Don't reply-all unless it's necessary.
  • If you don't know how to do something, try to figure it out instead of just saying "I don't know anything about that."
  • Research things. Use Google first, especially for general knowledge (like how Microsoft calendaring works), before asking people. Google knows these things.
  • If you make an actual effort and still can't figure something out within a reasonable timeframe, ask for help. Demonstrate what you've learned from your research so far and ask whoever's helping you to fill in the rest.
  • Don't make someone teach you something multiple times. Ask questions. Take notes.
  • Don't be someone who needs constant hand-holding.
  • Some people use OneNote or digital tools to organize their to-do items and thoughts. I use a paper notebook and a pen. Either work.
  • Observe the best practices of the people that you work with, and emulate these practices.
  • Observe the bad practices of the people that you work with, and don't emulate these practices.

posted by vitout at 11:15 AM on August 18, 2020 [35 favorites]

How do I handle email, especially emails that are mainly FYI. What about those CC'ed to me that are either FYIs or questions to other people.

Also: schedule time to go through emails and add things from there to your to-do list as necessary. I shut down outlook during most of the day and only check emails about every 2 hours, or 4 times a day. Otherwise the distractions of notifications kill me. But you can't get away with this in every job, it depends on the culture.

And schedule time to update your schedule/to-do list. I usually do it at the end of every day, so I come in the next day knowing exactly what I need to work on. Sometimes if it's a late day, I push it until the next morning.

These things don't always feel like "real work" but they are important in keeping you on top of everything, and in keeping you efficient, so they absolutely are.
posted by sillysally at 11:16 AM on August 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Don't feel silly, as someone who was an academic, you know how to learn new things and are probably pretty good at it, so you got this. I am an academic, but I try really hard to keep track of everything in a focused way because otherwise I absolutely end up falling into the absent-minded professor thing you describe. I have two tools that I have used for most of my career: OmniFocus, which is a "getting things done" based project management software for Macs; and RescueTime, to keep track of how much time I'm spending on my different projects on my work computer. RescueTime also has a daily highlights feature where I can make notes about things I accomplished or did, which I review at the end of each week and month so that I can write a little monthly report for myself about my progress. If you don't use a Mac, any "getting things done" system will work. GTD is a really useful framework for allocating my time and for organizing my brain.

These two things have brought a lot of structure to my work and have helped me be and stay productive. Monthly self reports are also useful to have, because they help me put together a narrative for my reviews. I also schedule my time, and build in time every day for four essential activities: reading, writing, email, and reviewing my task list. Finally, I suggest always taking your own notes at any meeting you attend. It's really useful to have your own record, in addition to formal meeting minutes. I also find that taking notes during meetings helps me better understand what matters to my colleagues, which is an important thing to understand in a work environment.

Also, some of the questions that you are asking are probably best answered by your workplace culture. I would encourage you to find somebody who can act as a mentor to guide you in these kinds of things. I would also probably ask my boss about how to report to them as I'm getting work done. If you have some kind of systematic way of tracking what you've done and what you need to do, like I suggest, it's easy to tell your boss what you've been up to in a way that fits with their current workflow/way of interacting with other people who report to them.
posted by k8lin at 11:32 AM on August 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

I would recommend doing some training in Outlook, to get you started. lynda.com has a number of series, which you may have access to via your local library system or your company's HR and training services; there's also thousands of options on youtube, you might want to start with this channel. You may want to do some Excel training too, if you didn't use it in your previous life.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:42 AM on August 18, 2020

How much you report to your boss, and how to have a boss in general, is really dependent on the person and your company culture. I think it is great to ask your boss directly what kind of communication they prefer and what they expect from you as a report. This isn't going to make you look like a newbie - everyone should ask that of every supervisor when they first start working together! It makes you look like a good employee to ask. For example, I've had bosses that liked detailed, weekly reports of what I'm working on, and others who hated long emails and would rather just have me pop into their office for 2 minutes if I had a question or problem. It would have been awkward if I had been sending the latter weekly status emails for a year before I found that out.
posted by beyond_pink at 12:05 PM on August 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

As a former academic who is now a mid-career professional, I agree with most of the advice above.

I'd encourage you to view this as two separate skillsets: how do I manage my commitments/accountabilities, and how do I use the organization's tools?

For the former, check out a book on workplace organization & productivity: Getting Things Done by David Allen, The Five Choices by Kory Kogan, or Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern are common recommendations. Over time, you'll develop your own systematic approach. To start, just pick a system that seems like a good fit and start practicing it.

For the tools side, most organizations use Outlook as their email and calendar tool. I personally use Outlook's tasks as well, but I find that most people don't - they only use calendars to track their assignments, or mix Outlook with lists in a different system. Teams is starting to gain traction as a communication and task tracking tool. Or, your organization may use Google's suite or a different office tool. Whatever it is, some basic training materials can take you a long way. I'd either check out a book on Outlook from the library, or watch some YouTube tutorials.
posted by philosophygeek at 12:08 PM on August 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

I keep my to-do list in a Google doc. The benefit of putting it in a Google doc is that I can reorder and move things as priorities change. It has the following sections:

This week. This is where I put my immediate to-dos, ordered by priority. This is also where I list due dates if a task has a specific one. In a particularly busy week, I add a section above this for Today.

Waiting on response/meeting. One of the biggest surprises for me when I went from a student in an academic setting to an employee in a workplace is that when I hand things off to someone else to edit or respond to, they don’t become “not my problem”. I’m still responsible for keeping track of them, and for following up if I don’t hear from that person in a reasonable amount of time. I use this section for things like a project that my manager is editing, a question I’ve asked a coworker in an email, or a decision I’m holding off on making until a meeting.

Check in. This section is where I keep track of questions I want to ask my boss at our weekly one-on-one check-in meeting. If you don’t have one of those with your boss, set one up.

Next week. This is self-explanatory.

On my radar. This is for things that I know are going to come up at some point in the future but I don’t need to work on immediately this week or next. E.g., if my manager mentions we’re going to work on a particular project in the next few weeks, or if I know performance reviews are on a specific date, it goes here.

I also have a Done section where items get moved when I finish them, so I can report on them to my manager in our weekly check-ins and so I can keep a record of my accomplishments for when I’m writing my self-review or updating my resume. I only put more-substantial items here or items where my manager specifically wanted to know the outcome; usually I just delete very minor tasks from my Google doc when I finish them.

To make this work, I keep this Google doc open in a browser window at all times during the workday. Any time someone asks me to do something, even in passing, I immediately type it into the doc. Any time I ask someone else to do or answer something: immediately into the doc. Any time I remember, oh shoot, I really need to do some task: immediately into the doc.

I’ve been using this system for over 6 years and it hasn’t failed me yet.
posted by capricorn at 12:12 PM on August 18, 2020 [19 favorites]

Large organizations often have a company-wide task tracking or project management system, where to-do items are stored, prioritized, and assigned. This eliminates a lot of status update emails going around. Smaller organizations may have a spreadsheet or text file that the manager maintains and may or may not share with the team. Some managers may just try to keep all this information in their brain.

The worst is email where storage and status are mixed in with discussion.

If your organization or manager doesn't have a system, then you may want to consider keeping track yourself, with a simple text or Word document, or a full-fledged system like Todoist or Asana. The benefits are that it keeps you on track, especially if your manager is disorganized, and it it also serves as a record of your accomplishments, for reviews/resume-building/self-esteem. It can also let you set specific days to send reminders to people if you're waiting for a response.

Most things like calendars/meetings and status emails are very much organization/manager specific. Some consider it presumptuous for you to schedule a bunch of people for a meeting, others would take it as a sign of being proactive. Some managers love status emails, others think it's yet another less-important email in their overfilled inbox.

HR and IT usually have nothing to do with your day-to-day work. They both support your position which exists for your manager. They are not an intermediary between you and your manager.
posted by meowzilla at 12:46 PM on August 18, 2020

Do you actually want to do all this stuff? I'll answer your questions as if you do, but I also want to be clear that you should fight the system and not just be a corporate drone and all that stuff. Outlook in particular sucks and you shouldn't just accept it as a fact of life.

"What's the best way to keep a list of things I've been told to do, when they should be done by and/or the order in which they should be done?"

This varies significantly from person to person. Me, I just keep a text file open. A lot of people use to-do list apps. Todoist is one that seems popular that a former boss suggested to me. My general rule of thumb is that if you have so much going on that you need an app to track it for you, you're probably overworked.

"How do I handle email, especially emails that are mainly FYI. What about those CC'ed to me that are either FYIs or questions to other people."

Make a bunch of folders in Outlook, one for each particular thing you're assigned to (project, client, etc.), plus some administrative ones like "Stuff from HR" or "Credential Setup". If you're certain that no response is required from you, just mark them as read and move them to the appropriate folder. That way, if someone says "in so-and-so's email from August 14", you can look in the folder on August 14 and find it quickly.

"Am I supposed to tell someone when I've done work that doesn't really have a deliverable"

Ask your boss. There is no other answer. Some bosses (better known as "micromanagers") will want detailed updates; others will trust you to do what you're supposed to do.

"Explain to me how microsoft calender works."

You can probably find a book or website on this, but at it's most basic, Outlook Calendar is just a graphical representation of time in half-hour* chunks, which you fill up with activities. Sometimes, you'll schedule the activity yourself (by double-clicking the half-hour block in question and then filling out the fields in the window that opens), but more often, someone will schedule your time for you. How nice. This will arrive in your inbox like a regular email, but you'll have buttons to accept or decline the invitation. If you accept, the block of time in question is filled up accordingly. You can fill the same block of time with multiple activities, although if this happens, it's a red flag that you work for a terrible company. Most activities will have a reminder, which will alert you 15 minutes, 5 minutes, and 0 minutes (i.e., start time) before the activity is scheduled to begin. That's helpful for putting notes to self in. Other people can generally see whether you have a particular block filled up or not, but not what it's filled with. You can use this to your advantage by scheduling blocks of time to work uninterrupted.

If you let your boss know you've never used Outlook before, there's probably someone at your company who could give you a quick 30-minute how-to. IT, or a teammate, or even your boss herself.

"What apps might those be? Will they mix up my personal and work email?"

Without any further specification from your boss, the answer is D, all of the above. If there's a program or site that you use on your work desktop/laptop, there's probably an app. Search for it in your app store and download it. You can always delete it later if you realize you don't use it. The exception is Outlook. Your phone already has mail and calendar apps, and you can just add your email account to those rather than downloading a new app. Whether that gets mixed with your personal stuff depends on the app in question. You can always download additional mail and calendar apps if you keep them separate. For example, I've downloaded the Gmail app when I've wanted to use Gmail on my phone (I use it for job hunting), but I don't want to add my Gmail address to Mail.

"If there's a 'having a job for beginners' article out there, that would be great"

The short answer is, ask your boss. That's trite, but ultimately, your boss is the one evaluating your work. What anyone else thinks is irrelevant, and will honestly only frustrate you when your boss doesn't do things the way that other people think they're supposed to be done. Besides, every boss is different, so you're not really that different from someone coming from another company, or another department within the same company. Having a conversation to set expectations at the beginning of the relationship is a good idea for any relationship, not just work.

"I can't just casually ask people things"

Yes you can, just via instant message or email instead of face-to-face. I ask my boss stuff via Slack all the damn time. Heck, I've had numerous phone calls with people to casually ask people things, or to have people casually ask me things. Working from home just changes the medium, which is actually good, because this way you're not interrupting someone who may be working on something else. They can answer you when they reach a convenient stopping point instead of dropping everything and losing their train of thought.

Final advice: Never, ever reply-all to an email to just say "thanks". If everyone followed this, it would probably cut email volumes by a third, maybe more.

*Yes, I know you can change the default time period, but if the OP is asking "how Outlook Calendar works", they probably don't need that level of detail.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:00 PM on August 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Some work culture expects responses to email after typical hours and/or on weekends. I'd suggest asking for clarification if this is expected.
posted by jennstra at 1:58 PM on August 18, 2020

If you can work it out, it's a great thing to make a friend of someone of more or less equal status in the company who you can ask procedural or company culture questions.
posted by SemiSalt at 2:30 PM on August 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

“Some work culture expects responses to email after typical hours and/or on weekends. I'd suggest asking for clarification if this is expected.”

No. Turn everything off at 5pm, and if they want to treat you abusively, they can be explicit and tell you themselves that they do not respect boundaries. You can respond by resigning and finding a new job that does not take advantage of you.
posted by kevinbelt at 2:39 PM on August 18, 2020 [10 favorites]

I'm seeing a lot of advice here, and I'm a little late, but Microsoft did a study on using outlook effectively, and have made it into a training document. Since adapting their excellent guidelines, I rolled it out to the entire team. I'm so efficient at email now, I feel like a whole better employee!


I just can't recommend this enough!!
posted by bbqturtle at 3:04 PM on August 18, 2020 [14 favorites]

Asking dumb questions casually to more seasoned employees: get on slack and do it. No faster way to get the culture.
posted by j_curiouser at 3:19 PM on August 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

This is partly just a mindset shift that you seem to be semi aware of, but academia often instills a mindset of needing to e.g. "answer my email" or "grade these papers" before I can "work", and that's a good habit to get out of.
posted by heyforfour at 3:33 PM on August 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Aside from the practical issues (e.g. using MS Outlook), most of these are a matter of organizational culture, which differs both by sector and by specific organization (or even departments within an organization), and also by your specific position/role. Some positions, for example, expect people to work very independently; I've had times of checking in with a manager/boss only every few weeks. You've been an academic and mention that you are "mid-career", so I'm going to assume that you are a highly skilled person and not working in an entry-level job, so you will likely have a lot of self-direction.

Culture disclosure: I work in a non-profit research organization for a scientist/manager in a highly independent role.

How do I handle email, especially emails that are mainly FYI. What about those CC'ed to me that are either FYIs or questions to other people.

FYI Emails: I assume that everyone has too many emails, and doesn't want my response unless necessary. If I'm cc'd and I'm not being asked a question, I don't respond. If it's only to me, I might send a quick "Thanks!" or "Noted and filed!"; even then, I usually try to make sure that my response email contains more information. For example, my boss will forward me an email about an upcoming ethics renewal deadline, and I will respond to say not just that I received it, but also when I plan to prepare the ethics renewal and whether I'll need any information that I don't have to do this.

What's the best way to keep a list of things I've been told to do, when they should be done by and/or the order in which they should be done?

If you haven't been told to use a specific system by your organization/department, this will be a purely personal choice. You play around until you find out what works for you and your personal work style and environment. If you're looking for ideas, capricorn's suggestions above are really good (I've copied their comment so I can think of using some of the suggestions). I use a combination of calendar events (e.g. personal sub-deadlines), flagging emails with tasks/requests, and (when I wasn't working at home) a whiteboard. (I miss my whiteboard).

Sometimes an organization has some very specific systems for organizing work - people have mentioned project management software. In health research, particularly clinical trials, there may be a document called "Standard Operating Procedures" which outlines the organization and reporting requirements.

Am I supposed to tell someone when I've done work that doesn't really have a deliverable. e.g. I have to do e-training and I have a stack of journal articles I've been asked to read. Am I supposed to report "I read these today" or something like that?

Again, this is personal, but now the preferences are those of both you and your manager. I report to two different scientists; one likes to have scheduled weekly updates, even if nothing much has happened (so we have a 5 minute meeting/phone call); the other rarely schedules a meeting, but will phone when she needs to know something (and otherwise assumes I'm just ticking along - but we've also been working on and off together for about 8 years now).

I like the weekly check-ins, especially when working with someone I haven't worked with before. If your manager is too busy to meet, you could send a regular written update (as dum spiro spero suggests); if not that much changes in a week, then you can make it bi-weekly. (When I was working part-time on one project, I sent monthly updates, as our progress tended to move very slowly by the nature of the project). But, if possible, I would suggest regular phone/video chats with a new boss, because you are both starting to get to know each other and there will be things that come up in the course of conversation that will be helpful. A lot of hospital and science labs have weekly meetings at the beginning of the week to talk about things they've been working on, upcoming stuff.

Explain to me how microsoft calender works.

The calendar is integrated into the email program (Outlook). It's actually a bit frustrating as the default isn't to show both at once, but to flip between the email and calendar view. But it does have the benefit that if you wish to add an email to your calendar (for example, with instructions on some task), you can just drag the email to the calendar icon and it will make a new event based on the email.

Working with Outlook calendar is very similar to working with Google Calendar, iOS calendar, the Palm pilot calendar - just about every electronic calendar I've ever used (it's a common form). You set events/meetings by hitting "New Meeting" or by selecting a block of time, you can invite people or not, etc. There are a lot of equivalencies.

My boss told me she has "the apps" on her phone. What apps might those be? Will they mix up my personal and work email? I don't want that.

For Android, the Outlook app handles both an Outlook calendar and email. You can chose to link it to your personal email as well as to your work email, but you don't need to. I have a Gmail app on my phone for my personal email, and an Outlook app for my work email and calendar. They are not connected; I am signed into Outlook with my work account, and the Gmail app with my personal email.

As for the later discussion about email responses: if you are in the public sector, don't worry answering emails on a weekend or after the end of your work hours. It's not part of the culture.

If you do have co-workers that you are able to chat more casually with, that is useful. But I know that many alternative-academic jobs can be quite solitary and project/contract based. I've had times when I had no co-workers other than my manager/PI and it was a new project, so we were creating the norms and culture as we went along. This is where having those regularly scheduled check-ins can be very helpful - it's a chance for both of you to get to know each other and figure out what work-flows are best for you both.
posted by jb at 3:33 PM on August 18, 2020

My first job out grad school was with a research organization working with the Navy. Everything I did was checked and reviewed. In fact, the Navy sent it to our competitors for them to review. My next job was with a Fortune 500 company. There, no one checked my work. Mostly, no one checked the specifics of my work for the rest of my career though errors in computer programs come to light sooner or later, hopefully sooner. (Big time software companies do have code reviews when a group sits around a table passing judgment on each other's work.)

The dotting of eyes and crossing of tees you would put into an academic paper is mostly unneeded in industry.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:16 PM on August 18, 2020

When I changed careers and began working in an office, I was really concerned about all of the things that people in the office just seemed to know how to do—things like those you mentioned in your question. I worried about it a great deal and chalked all kinds of things up to my not knowing about office tools and norms. Since then, I’ve learned is that there is rarely one right way to do things in an office; that your colleagues’ and supervisors’ preferences (not best practice) typically determine the culture, the tools most folks work with, and the way work gets done; that it’s annoying to have to learn a lot of stuff in a short period of time when you’re new, but it can be done; and that anyone who contributed to any concerns you might have about how well you’re adjusting to office life is very likely to turn out to be a terrible colleague in the long run anyway.

It makes sense to do your best, and there’s some great actual advice in this thread, but please don’t let yourself buy into the idea that you don’t know how to have a job. I doubt you’d have been hired for this job if you hadn’t put in a good deal of work somewhere. This is just a different kind of work.
posted by TEA at 7:18 PM on August 18, 2020

I moved from academia to industry too.

I find it much easier to not miss deadlines, etc in industry because these are from people you see (at least virtually) almost everyday so you can’t bury your head in the sand. In my company, they will Slack you for a response if you’re late.

SemiSalt’s experience doesn’t resonate with me. I’m at a medium sized company and it actually was a culture shock for me when I joined the every line of code is write is carefully reviewed, because it’s hitting a production system. No one even looked at my code in academia. It’s true I don’t have to polish up internal docs the way I did academic papers, but they’re expected to be fairly rigorous or you will get called out. Publicly, same as an academic seminar. And I am in a “nice” company.

Performance reviews were another thing that took some adjusting to. I don’t love them, but I appreciate that there’s a chance to get a raise and promotion.

Having a manager is another change, though healthy companies shouldn’t have bosses barking orders at their lackeys like on TV. The more modern companies don’t even call them bosses. Still, a bad manager sucks out all joy from work, an indifferent one is similar to being an academic, and a good one can be amazing for your career development even apart from the company. And you know this — you have after all had a manager when you were doing your PhD.

Anyway, I think lots of the advice you get here is going to be specific to the companies people have worked in.
posted by redlines at 8:08 PM on August 18, 2020

Hi! I’ve been an office worker for a long time. I keep a bullet journal for work and it’s invaluable to me for keeping an eye on current and future tasks.

I try to keep my inbox at zero. In outlook I have folders for each year I’ve been at my organization. In each year folder I have a folder for each month. If an email has an ask or project in it, that ask/project goes into the bullet journal and the email is filed into its month folder. FYI emails are read and filed in their month folder. If I need that info again, I just search outlook for it.

My former manager was very hands off with tasks that didn’t have deliverables. For him, I’d read the journal articles and be done. My current one falls in that nebulous area between hands off and micromanager. For him, I’ll make sure he knows I read the articles by bringing up something I liked or learned. That way he doesn’t have to ask and I don’t have to formally report back. You’ll find out in a month or so what your manager likes.

Good luck! You’ve got this.
posted by kimberussell at 8:18 PM on August 18, 2020

Academia is way nastier and more baldly competitive - though couched in erudite lyricism - than corporate culture. Corporate culture is all about deadlines!

If you survived academia, corporate culture is a preschool sandbox. You will figure it out.
posted by citygirl at 10:21 PM on August 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Use whatever email/calendar apps (Outlook, Google, suck it up) that your org uses, there's no room for eccentricity. You can have your own side organization system, but you want the core to be whatever hateful shit everyone else is running, so they can set meetings and stuff for you.
If you have to use your own devices, set separate accounts/browsers for work and don't open your personal social media or anything nsfw on those instances.
Set email filters. Inbox zero may be a dream, but you will want folders and rules that route things to them for notifications and dumb recurring emails. Don't delete anything, file it when read. It will help so much with organization.
Don't skip meetings without notice - instead give your coworkers a chance to flake too by proposing to cancel it ahead of time! Our formula for this around here is "give time back".
posted by Freyja at 6:58 AM on August 19, 2020

Read Help! I Have A Manager!
posted by caek at 8:46 PM on August 22, 2020

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