Early in many young PR professionals’ careers, you may start out working for a small business with only a handful of co-workers. The environment, dress code, and overall culture in many small businesses are emphatically casual, and the hierarchy is not as necessarily as rigid or clearly spelled out. For many young professionals, this is a great way to first enter the job market. Soon enough, after a few years of experience under your belt, however, you may move on to a job for a larger corporation, one whose modus operandi is drastically different. Having personally experienced this transition, I can say with some measure of authority that it takes a lot of getting used to. Here are a few tips to help ease that transition.

1.      Read the company handbook thoroughly, and expect rules to be de facto rules and not just flexible guidelines.

When I worked for a small business, we did have a company handbook that outlined rules, but it was fairly obvious after several months working there that no one had read it, and almost every aspect of work was flexible. Although it can be tough to take handbook warnings about tardiness seriously when you were once able to come in at whatever time you liked, follow rules to the T unless you are told by a superior otherwise.

2.      Observe how veteran employees act and dress.

Of course, even if you’ve moved into a more corporate atmosphere, the handbook will not necessarily give you the best indication about how your new environment really works. The best way to understand the new company’s culture is to observe it in play. Of course, you don’t want to follow the example of new or troublesome employees. Figure out who in the company has worked long and is liked and respected. Follow their ways of dress and behavior.

3.      Interact as you much as you can with coworkers and supervisors to further understand the company culture.

It should be noted that observation, of course, is not enough when trying to navigate a new company’s modes of operation. It’s important to interact professionally with those who know the system well. Integrate yourself as fully as you can in order to understand how the company works.

4.      If you are in doubt about anything, don’t be afraid to ask. 

Since you are a newcomer, everyone understands that you will sometimes inadvertently make the occasional faux pas when you first begin. At the same time, it’s important to clarify any questions you may have about company policy if you are ever in doubt so as to avoid uncomfortable situations. Never be afraid to ask questions. It’s much better to be informed than to cross a line and admit later that you didn’t know.

This is a guest post by Nadia Jones who blogs at online college about education, college, student, teacher and movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5@gmail.com.