Being a freelancer is a bit like being a nomad in the desert. You’re always wandering around setting up your tent, working on all kinds of projects with all sorts of interesting (feel free to interpret liberally) people until the job is done, and then you move on. You’re also a bit of a chameleon, changing your colors and outfits to suit various client needs, adapting to assorted office environments, making small talk at happy hours you’re only invited to every now and then, and keeping your space neat and clean in the event of a quick office relocation. It’s certainly not for everyone. But it works for me.
I’ve picked up a lot of life lessons from observing and participating in these various office cultures, some of which I try to implement at home. And since I’ll soon be moving from one tent to another, I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve learned along the way.
1. Always say good morning and thank you, especially to the support staff. Support staff can make or break a work environment. Treat the support staff like they’re inferior and it’ll get you nowhere fast. You’ll look like an ass (Yep, I’m talking to you, xx) and you’ll always be the one talked about during happy hour (the one you don’t get invited to). But the converse is also true. Treat the support staff with respect and your experience at work will be so much more pleasant. And who knows, you may even make a few friends! This can also apply to any other service oriented professional you’d typically ignore in your neighborhood or around town. Call me pollyannaish, but I just think the world would be oh, so much nicer if people just said hello.
2. Don’t bring tuna sandwiches to work. Tuna sandwiches are meant to be eaten in one place only: the diner. Fresh, white meat albacore with a side of extra crispy french fries. Homemade tuna is absolutely disgusting and homemade tuna that you throw in a sack and bring to work then fish out of the office fridge (or worse, leave out in a bag on your desk) around 1 pm is almost worse than hanging your sweaty gym socks on your door before a meeting. Nobody needs to smell that. Not now. Not ever.
3. Please, please, please, don’t imitate your two-year-old’s voice at work regaling coworkers about his exciting poopy on the potty yesterday. I cannot stress enough how unbelievably annoying it is. I love your kids, don’t get me wrong. But man, there is a time and a place for poopy potty imitation. And it ain’t here! Not to mention that part of the reason I come to work in the first place is not to hear kid voices, especially bad imitations.
4. Bring the tech support guy brownies. Befriend the tech support guy and your computer woes will be forever solved. Because when the network goes down guess whose computer will be up and running first?
5. Every now and then eat lunch with some colleagues. Even though this can be annoying and phony, face time not discussing work stuff (please adhere to tips 2 and 3) is very beneficial. Laugh at their jokes, sympathize with their ‘my life is so much harder than yours’ stories by nodding with a concerned look.
6. Don’t bring your Halloween candy and leave it in a bowl in your desk. You didn’t want to get fat at home. And I don’t want to get fat in the office. Toss it sister.
7. Don’t use your work email account for personal emails. Duh. I just think it’s funny to watch people get busted for that.
8. Always keep your tent open. You never know when you’ll run into your old tribesmen somewhere down the road.
The Fulani people of West Africa are the largest nomadic group in the world, primarily nomadic herders and traders. Through their nomadic lifestyle, they established numerous trade routes in West Africa. A typical West African dish has loads of starch and tons of fat with just a hint of meat. Which means I won’t be making it.
But in honor of nomads everywhere, I will make a variation of a traditional Fulani dish filled with onions and tomatoes (and a lot less fat) called Jollof Rice because I know everyone will like it! Personally, I think it tastes exactly like Aroz Con Pollo. Such a small world, isn’t it? Nomads, Mexicans and freelancers. We’re all one big happy wandering family!
Chicken and Jollof Rice