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Internship Lessons from “The Office”

The school year is almost at an end, and we will soon be starting our jobs (both summer and permanent) and internships.  However, our BC education often only teaches us about what to do, but never what not to do.  Television, though, has solved this problem and shown how to avoid the mistakes and pitfalls of the characters that we have come to love, hate, or love to hate.  While not an “accredited” form of education, TV has taught us a lot.  (Does Wishbone ring a bell?)

The Office is no different. 
 
The Office is a television show about, well… people who work in an office.  Originally Dunder Mifflen Paper Company, Inc. (and now, a division of Sabre), the office consists of a colorful cast of characters.  The television show follows their everyday lives, their relationships with coworkers, and the wacky situations that arise in the office.  From closely studying their antics, we can learn a lot about how to behave, or rather, how not to behave.
 
Here are some lessons that can be learned from watching The Office:
 
1.  When meeting new people, introduce yourself, but don’t ask awkward questions.

Although Michael means well by welcoming the new employees, he makes the mistake of asking an awkward, and possibly even offensive, question to one of them.  Rather than asking such a question, stick to more basic questions, like “What’s your name?” or “Which department do you work in?”  That way, you’ll start the relationship off on a good foot, rather than a bad impression.
 



2.  Parkour is not meant to be done in the office.

Parkour is fun and cool, but please, do not try out your skills in the office.  Not only is it unprofessional, but it’s also embarrassing to watch if you are a coworker.  Stick to much more composed behavior, and save your moves for outside of the office, where it’s safer and more socially accepted.
 



3.  “That’s What She Said” jokes are not appropriate in the workplace, and if you feel uncomfortable if someone is making them, tell someone.

Although they’ve been one of Michael’s longest running jokes over the past seven seasons, the “That’s What She Said” jokes should not really be said in the office.  While they may seem funny when said among friends (especially among guys), they could be seen as a form of harassment.  If you are uncomfortable with the comments being said, come forward and tell someone, like your human resources representative (look for a guy named Toby, maybe?).
 



4.  Don’t try to kiss a client.  Be professional.

This situation can be summed up in one word:  uncomfortable.  I mean kissing a client, really?  A person that you’ve known for half an hour tops?  This lesson is pretty straightforward.  Although they might be good-looking, clients are off-limits.
 



5.  Do not lie to your ex that you’re pregnant just to keep the romance alive.

This should be a no-brainer in any romantic relationship, even if it is outside of the office.  Even if you’re desperate, the results aren’t worth it.  (Have you seen Kelly and Ryan’s rollercoaster relationship?)  You will only end up hurting the relationship, getting odd looks from your coworkers, and being known as that girl.
 


 
6.  Don’t go overboard with a joke.

While this office joke started off funny, Andy took it a little too far (and slightly off subject).  A little bit of teasing can take a turn for the worse, especially if you are constantly trying to “outdo” your coworkers.  I’m not telling you to never crack a joke, but just remember to keep it humorous, not bizarre.
 



7.  Compromise is the best solution, but only if both sides are listened to.
 

Do not listen to Michael.  Listen to Pam.  Whether it’s a poster or a group project, compromise works because it tries to satisfy everyone in the best way possible.  Michael tried and failed to solve the problem, because he didn’t listen to both sides.  Ultimately, neither Angela nor Oscar ended up happy.  However, Pam managed to reach a consensus between the two of them because she developed a compromise that worked.  So, remember to always take both sides into account when searching for middle ground.  Besides, would you want to wear that poster on a t-shirt?
 



8.  Don’t make fun of your coworkers by dressing up and acting like them.

Jim and Dwight have been at each other’s throats – pranking and mocking each other – since before the first season began, but just because they do that does not mean that you should.  At an internship or a job, you need to remain professional, even if the person next to you gets on your nerves.  This rule especially applies to those collegiettes™ who are in constant contact with their bosses or clients.  Your boss might fire you, and you may lose your clients if they see you behaving that way.  Having said that, do what you want on your own time.  Just please do not bring it to the office.
 



9.  On Casual Friday, use discretion.

If Casual Friday exists at the business or organization where you’re working or interning, remember to read the manual on the dress code or ask a coworker for advice.  Meredith did neither.  Although it may be Casual Friday, it doesn’t mean that you can wear anything you want.  Use discretion when picking out your clothes.  A polo and jeans might be good, but a short dress that does not cover your top or bottom might not be.  (Do you really want to show them to your coworkers and then have to face them every day afterwards?)
 


 
10.  Do not put office supplies in Jell-O, even if they belong to your archnemesis.

Most people like Jell-O.  However, most people do not like their staplers in Jell-O.  While it seems funny on TV, it only increases tensions in real life.  (And even on The Office, the pranks and tension between Dwight and Jim only escalate.)  While it may be funny, it should stay out of the workplace.
 


The Office can teach us a lot and make us laugh at the same time.  I hope that while you prepare to head off to your jobs and internships, you keep these tips in mind.  They’ll help you avoid many of the mistakes made by the characters in The Office, like jumping into a dumpster from the roof, concocting a fake pregnancy, or flashing coworkers!  Good luck!

P.S.  I would just like to give a quick farewell to Michael G. Scott, Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin in Scranton, PA, and “World’s Best Boss.”  You will be missed.
 
Photo Sources:
http://www.hulu.com/the-office
http://tangledfringe.blogspot.com/

Danica is a senior at Boston College and is a History major with an Irish Studies minor.  She is originally from Greenwich, CT and moved to East Boothbay, ME.  She is also a member of Boston College Irish Dance and the Shaw Leadership Program.  And last but not least is a fiery redhead who lives in a dragon-guarded castle surrounded by a boiling lake of lava! But don't let that cool you off. She's a loaded pistol who likes piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. Yours for the rescuing: Princess Danica!  (And yes, that is a quote from Shrek...)
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