Receptionist Life Part 1: How not to fuck it up.

I’ve been a receptionist since high school. It all started in middle school when my mother, annoyed at the fact that I spent my summers in front of the TV and not running around outside in the God-awful humidity of Brooklyn summers, invited me to come with her to work. I thought I was getting a deal when my mom promised me free lunch, my own computer and air-conditioning.

What that really meant was shredding boxes upon boxes of lab reports, and getting leftovers from office meetings and corporate birthday parties. Thanks Mom.

But what I can say is starting from the bottom has taught me a lot of things that have helped me in not only my work life, but also my social life- and has made me a better worker in general, regardless of working in an office, or anywhere else.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

You will drop a call. You will fumble when you’re announcing a call, or pronouncing a name. You’ll forget names, and mess up on things. It happens. You are human, you will make mistakes. The trick is to keep moving forward after those mistakes and to let those mistakes happen as infrequently as possible.

Take responsibility for everything you touch/ comes across your desk

This is especially important for work ethic. I’ve gotten so many half-assed things come across my desk, and call it perfectionism- but I like things that have my name on them to be of quality. Make sure to edit, proofread, check and double check before you pass it along. If there’s a mistake and it was your fault, admit to it. If it wasn’t your fault, don’t throw someone under the bus. Just say that you didn’t notice the mistake before you passed it on, and apologize. It could make you look like a team player, which is a good thing for everyone.

The “phone voice” takes practice. Lots of practice. 

You know the voice I’m talking about- I mean the “yoga” voice, the “smile in your voice” voice. The breathy, calm and collected voice that you put on even though your life is a mess and there’s loud construction going on next door and someone is speaking to you in a language that you can’t even identify and your boss is mouthing something to you that seems important and you can’t find your pen. It takes practice not only to develop, but to also maintain when you’re having a bad day and you’ve spilled your hot coffee on your lap and kicked the desk and stubbed your toe.

Don’t complain about only getting busy work. 

There are a lot of jobs in the world that aren’t super complicated, and being a receptionist is one of them. Therefore, you will get a lot of “busy work”. But be very careful who you complain to, because making a point and complaining are very different. If you go about it correctly, you can show your boss that you are capable of doing more work and taking on more responsibility. If you go about wrong, you’ll be stuck in data entry forever, or in the most extreme case, looking for another job.

Be nice/friendly/cordial to everyone. Even when you don’t want to. Even when they don’t deserve it.

This doesn’t only mean coworkers. This means maintenance people, the Xerox repair guy, janitors, the parking attendant… It is very surprising how people will help you because of that one time you wished them a good weekend or smiled at them in the elevator. This also plays double duty, because you will be known as a person that can not only get along with difficult people, but you also show that you can roll with the punches and keep a level head.

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