Is This Work or High School? | Careers

Is This Work or High School? | Careers

Published August 25, 2008

Bullies. Gossip. Homework.

High school could be a distant memory, but you may be surprised to learn that not all aspects of your academic experience are behind you. In fact, many of the same challenges you faced then -- standing up to those pesky bullies, for example -- exist in the workplace, too. The good news is that the same approaches you took then to overcome these obstacles can come in handy today.

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Here are some situations that may cause you to wonder if you're at the office or back in sixth period, as well as advice for tackling each challenge:

Challenge No. 1: Standing up to bullies

You may have thought you left bullies behind when you donned your cap and gown, but they exist in the workplace, too. The difference is that instead of threatening to take your lunch money, office bullies may dismiss your ideas at a meeting or fail to you return your calls. Though the actions are subtler, the effect is still the same: frustration and damage to your self-confidence. Instead of turning a deaf ear, stand up for yourself and let a bully know you don't appreciate how you're being treated. Often a direct approach will cause the person to back down. If the behavior continues, talk with your manager or a human resources representative about the issue.

Challenge No. 2: Dodging gossip

Fueling the rumor mill in school could have come back to haunt you if others found out you were spreading gossip. The same is true in the workplace. Gossiping about coworkers can damage relationships and harm your professional reputation. So try to stay above the fray. Instead of joining a conversation about an inappropriate topic, avoid it by excusing yourself. And if you happen to overhear some "juicy" information, keep it to yourself.

Challenge No. 3: Making friends

Friends were an essential source of support during high school, but sometimes it may have been difficult to identify kindred spirits. Forging relationships with others in the office can be equally beneficial. Workplace buddies can offer you advice for overcoming challenges, keep you informed of new projects or professional development opportunities, and cover for you when you're out of the office. The key to making friends at work: getting involved. Make sure you participate in office functions, like holiday parties and birthday lunches. These events are the perfect way to get to know your colleagues better.

Challenge No. 4: Finding a mentor

Remember the teacher or guidance counselor who pushed you to achieve your full potential? In the workplace, it pays to find someone similar. A mentor can be any person whose success and work style you admire. Approach this individual and explain that you would enjoy finding out more about the skills and techniques that have helped him or her excel. Mentors are invaluable guides in navigating workplace challenges since they've walked the road before you, and they can help you identify interests or strengths you possess but are unaware of.

Challenge No. 5: Participating in extracurricular activities

To balance the time spent in the classroom or at home huddled over a book, you may joined a club, played a sport or participated in a performing art. Keep in mind that maintaining a balance between your personal and professional obligations is still important. Continuously working long hours or taking projects home can cause burnout and lower your satisfaction for your job. Devoting time to outside hobbies or interests can not only prevent this but also enhance your skill set. For instance, doing improvisational comedy on the side can help you think on your feet. And by exploring varied activities, you'll bring unique perspectives and ideas to the workplace.

If your workplace begins to remind you of your high school, remember the strategies you used in school to overcome challenges and excel. Chances are the lessons you learned during those four formative years will still serve you well today.


Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit


Written by BET-Staff


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