No burritos! How to make your office work for you

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Remember your first job when you were introduced to “that guy,” with the stained shirt and office that perpetually smelled like cheese?
Remember your first job when you were introduced to “that guy,” with the stained shirt and office that perpetually smelled like cheese? You probably also met the frazzled lady with scattered paper for carpet, a jar of pencils gnawed to nubs and an undeniable nervous shake. “How on earth can this company maintain such employees?” you wonder.

Don’t be “that guy” or “that gal.” When it comes to making a good impression on your supervisor and colleagues, the importance of presenting a respectable, professional image cannot be stressed enough. There are plenty of good articles on how to dress yourself for success, but have you considered what your office (or your cubicle, or even your desk) says about you? Indeed, the image your office portrays may easily be overlooked amidst the mountains of files, ink stains, and … that smell from last week’s lunch burrito marinating behind that banker’s box of documents you’ve been meaning to get to. What company would ever promote “that guy?”

For the sake of your career, consider the following suggestions for maintaining an office space, which not only positively reflects your personal image, but may also bolster your professional career.

• No burritos. A clean office is a happy office. Hide a duster in the bottom drawer, and don’t be afraid to use it. Immediately throw away your leftovers (in the kitchen if possible). If your employer permits, consider a subtle air freshener (but be considerate of others’ allergies and sensitivities).

• Decorate. No need to hire an interior decorator, but strive to make your office an inviting space for coworkers and supervisors. Consider comfortable chairs and tasteful artwork. A small lamp can defuse the fluorescent glow and help create an atmosphere conducive to friendly, yet productive, conversation. Although some authorities suggest no personal mementos, I have found family pictures and other trinkets honoring a favorite hobby can kickstart a conversation and build relationships based on common interests. But keep it classy and consider your office culture.

• Feng shui. Again, no experts needed. Just take some time to consider the layout of your office. Are you facing the door so you can greet the boss when he or she passes? Can you see your guests over your computer monitor? Despite this digital age, face time is still important. Position yourself accordingly.

• A plant is nice. … If you keep it watered. Do not let your coworkers associate you with the Addams family. But if you do take on the challenge of plant ownership, you may experience the added benefit of oxygen-induced energy and creativity.

• Declutter. You do not necessarily need to splurge on golden paper trays, but organized stacks, labels and lists show that you have priorities and the means of accomplishing them. Nevertheless, I do promote some stylish desk furniture, such as a colorful bowl for paperclips (instead of that worn-out square holder) to brighten the mood, but in moderation. You don’t want to distract your audience from the key feature in your office — you.

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