Monday, April 27, 2015

Receptionist survival guide and some advice for corp goths.

I don't think anyone chooses to be a receptionist as a career choice, it is sort of a position you stumble upon. Well, it was for me, at any rate and it was for most people I know too.

Being a receptionist is not an easy job, despite what other people think. If you are new to this position or are considering a career as a receptionist, perhaps these tips could be useful to you.

I am going to divide this post in two sections. One gives out general receptionist advice and the second part deals with working in an office while dressing alternative.

(1) Learn how to make small talk
I am an introvert working at a very extroverted position. It is not easy. A lot of clients come in and like to jibber-jabber with me. Working the front desk means you are also a representation of the company you are working for and the last thing you want to do is to come off as being cold or rude or unfriendly.  Despite feeling that I am really not good at making small talk or jibber jabber, usually, my go-to conversation is about the weather. It is common ground. Here in Canada, we can experience all four seasons in one day so it makes great small talk while the customer is waiting..................Can you believe the weather we are having? Cold enough huh?

(2) Underestimated
Get used to this one and do not take it personally. As long as your boss and immediate supervisor knows and appreciates your capabilities, do not let this one get to you. I spent years getting offended when people would only assume that "I am just the receptionist" or that I am some kid, despite me being a mother in my thirties. Looking younger too doesn't help my case much, either. I just learned to let it roll off my back. One person was surprised that I knew so much and learned so quickly when I was asked to help out. It is very insulting at times to have your intelligence questioned but again, I learned to let it roll off my back. Be yourself and eventually most people will come around and see that you are far more that "just a receptionist". Well, I was fortunate enough to have this happen to me. Again, the important part, DO NOT TAKE THIS PERSONALLY! It is just not worth it. Trust me. Besides the nail file is just for show OK!!

(3) Busy work
People will assume, despite all the phone calls and tasks you get, you don't do much all day so they will dump their busy work on you. These projects can be data entry, mass mailings, stuffing envelopes, etc. Get used to it. I know it is boring and tedious. Again, my employer is super awesome and allows me to listen to music at my desk! It helps get me that sort of work done. Sometimes I make a game out of it or I reward myself with candy. It's a sliding scale so i won't put it here and you'll have to make up your own reward system.

(4) Positive attitude
It is very hard at times to keep a positive attitude. Sometimes people will take their frustrations out on you. Sometimes you are so busy you are having trouble keeping your head above water. Sometimes, you get underestimated or you have mountains of busy work to do! I know how easy it is to loose your head in this position but believe me, it's not worth it. In the end, it was never about you. I know it is easier said than done but DO let it roll off your back. Focus on the positive. Besides no one has used that guillotine in years anyways.

Which leads too...

(5) Accept thanks and praise
Not everyone will be thankful and you may feel taken for granted at times but there are a few gems who do say thank you. My boss would thank me for the simplest of tasks. Don't under estimate this. It might take seconds of your time but it may take off minutes of someone else's. Hold on to each thanks because there will be times you will loose your head (as mentioned in the previous point) so you could look back to those times where you were appreciated.

(6) Get ready to repeat yourself
From informing customers that they need to go behind the building for their returns, to answering the same question over and over again (customers are notorious for asking the same question but in 5 different ways hoping you will give a different answer), you will be sounding like a broken record. Or broken 8 Track if you're still into that kind of thing.

(7) There are perks
People always think of me when they have goodies or cake or something. I have had coworkers give me things all the time because I helped them out. Sometimes vendors will come in offering samples. I get gifts every year from companies that I deal with. At Christmas time, I got a personalized calendar and notebook to say thanks. That's why I'm always nice to the fire department, I love those calenders they hand out!

(8) Friends in unusual places
I am friends with the delivery guys and the repair people. I got advice and a referral from the milkman once when I was looking for an optometrist! These people also come in handy when you need a favor with something work related and yes that is the electrician under my desk, his accountant is great.

(9) You deal with everyone
This might suck at times, with so many people having different personalities but I have friends throughout the company. Most departments stick together and it is nice being the "floater". I like to help out, if I had time I would do it more just because I learn so many new things when doing so. It helps get me through the busy work, usually people are happy with my work and are willing to teach me a thing or two. Because you never know when a new move might be appreciated!

Now for some advice for the fellow alternatives:

(1) Take your time and gradually incorporate items into your wardrobe. Don't just show up one day gothed out.
I am openly goth. Yes, I tone down to some extent. I have a bat pen at my desk and no one bats an eye (pun, intended)! I did not start off this way. When I first started, I still dressed normal. I gradually incorporated items into my wardrobe.  I asked before having my labret pierced or before I put un-natural colored streaks in my hair. If I wanted to wear something that may not be acceptable, I asked first. Only once I came in wearing something that wasn't work appropriate (spiderweb stockings) and my boss asked that I not wear them again. I didn't.

 I also do not wear anything that can be considered bondage (my leather collar is worn only on the weekends) and I keep a clean, well maintained appearance. Despite my profile picture, I smile a lot and am friendly. I do my best at making people feel comfortable around me. So no wandering around the office like a vampire themed cabaret dancer, at least not till the third week.

(2) Not everyone will accept the fact that you dress goth. Some may bully you in the workplace.I have had personal issues with some staff members. Some didn't like the goth look.  I dealt with the issues myself, like a big girl.In the end, I am on friendly terms with these people now. I either stayed out of their radar for a while and when I did have to work with them, I did my best to show them that despite the clothing I wore, I was a team player. I was there to help and make their lives easier. I keep things professional but I do try to make people laugh and thanks to being a perky goth, I let my upbeat personality shine.It is very hard to feel uncomfortable when someone is making you laugh.

Today, no one thinks twice now when I wear something "odd". I get complimented all the time. I let the best parts of my personality shine and people tend to accept my quirks. The ones who don't and I am fully aware of who they are, tend to have backed off over time. It won't be easy but I am a believer in hard work and being polite. Don't over kill them with politeness either because it would most probably piss them off . If you have to work with them, keep it professional. If things get bad, you may want to read up on your HR policies. Fortunately for me, nothing got to that point. I simply stuck to my boundaries and eventually the haters got used to me. Hell, today, I have coworkers who even read my blog!

At the end of the day, my hard work doesn't go unnoticed and I feel being allowed to show my love of the macabre is a really neat exchange. I have some amazing bosses for being so accepting. I like to think that says a lot about me as a person. I am the "odd one" but I get a long with everybody. Do not follow the stereotypes by being a sullen goth! I know it is hard. If I had my way, I wouldn't be so open and friendly but in a workplace, playing well with others is important. The last thing I want during my yearly review is to be told to be more friendly or people feel uncomfortable around me.

Being friendly either doesn't necessarily mean you need to go have a beer with these people after work or have lunch with them every day, either. I tend to lunch alone and talk on the phone with my husband but I do sometimes make small talk in the cafeteria.Keep a balance. You don't need to be "buddy-buddy" with everyone but you also don't want to alienate them either.

If you want to read more tips, I once posted something here

Remember we put the fun in funerals!!


  1. A lovely post and I totally agree with all you say about dressing the way you want. People like what I wear or don't care. Ugh I've gotten some unwanted attention from the mail room guys at a few places I've worked. What is it about the mail room guys

    1. I have gotten some unwanted attention from people who came to install something. By the end of it, I had to tell him to eff off (politely) and then mentionned something to tmy coworker who askd for these people to come in. Suprisingly, the dude never came back :)

  2. oh i liked reading this! feels like a trip into another world to read what people in other jobs have to face and how they 'goth up their job / working wardrobe'

  3. This is awesome advice! I worked in a billing office with about 60 women and I would hear chitter chatter about me (it was really funny actually) about "being goth". Even though we could wear what we wanted, I still kept it toned down as I just wanted to clock-in, do my work and leave. My team got used to me and saw what a hard worker I was, pretty soon the 'peanut gallery' was asking me for hair and style advice. Haha!!!!

    1. LOL yes and the same "peanut gallery" who originally underestimated you comes to you for career advice!

  4. Great advice. Surprisingly one of the more accepting places I was a receptionist at was a Catholic rectory. The way I dressed really didn't bother anyone, and I was careful not to go over the top. I wasn't showing up in ripped fishnets and a miniskirt. The priests used to joke that I was the only person who wore more black than them!

  5. Insightful, excellent advice. I love how you describe yourself as being "openly goth". I'm openly vintage and was nodding my head the whole way though this great post, as pretty much all of it could apply the vintage (fashion) world, too - and, really, most groups that dress outside of the 21st century standard of daily attire.

    Have a fabulous Friday!
    ♥ Jessica



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