Career Tips: What It Really Means to Be a Hard Worker

Here are a few questions we’ve received from readers about a topic that often generates anxiety among inexperienced employees: what does it actually mean to put in a full day of work?

Question 1: Am I Lazy or Hard Working?

“I just stepped into my first professional workplace, and as I look around, I see people chatting with each other over the cubicle walls, sometimes for hours at a time. I see people standing by the coffee machine, and I see people going out for lunch at noon and not coming back until 1:30. And I’m not sure how to process all this.When someone wants to chat with me, I feel the urge to send them away so I can get back to work, but I don’t want to be rude. When I take a 15-minute coffee break, I feel obligated to stay 15 minutes late at the end of the day, but nobody else ever does this. Are all these people being lazy? Or am I being a nerd?”


This is a common concern among entry-level workers. And since the answer varies with the culture of every workplace you’ll ever step into, there’s only one reliable solution: just tune in and pay attention to the behavior of those around you. Pick up the general rhythm of your environment and do the best you can to match your comings and goings to that rhythm. Sometimes when a coworker wants to chat, you’ll do more for your career by indulging that person for a minute than you would by rudely sending him away.In most office cultures, the employees who gain positive attention are those who seem content and present during every hour they spend in the workplace. Those who seem restless, anxious to leave, anxious to end conversations, and always mentally elsewhere will struggle to gain the same level of respect and trust (even if they keep longer hours).

Question 2: Early Bird Gets Canned?

“Everyone in my workplace tends to wander in slowly in the morning by 9:30 or 10:00, and they all stay at work until well past 5:00. I can’t do this, since I have other obligations that begin immediately after the workday ends. I’d like to balance the scales by coming in an hour early, but nobody’s here at that time and I don’t really get credit for being a team player if nobody knows I’m doing it. Any advice?”


You’re in a socially tricky position, especially if your team is just getting into the swing of things and requiring your support when you’re about ready to call it a day. But you have a life, which means you owe it to yourself to put this problem behind you and move forward.Here’s your solution: if your job description says this is a 9:00 to 5:00 job, come in at 8:50 and leave at 5:10. Do this every single day. Eventually, those who need you will fully understand and accept your hours of availability. If you change your habits every day, you’ll confuse them, and you’ll live in a constant state of unresolved anxiety. Just be consistent and your hours won’t be an issue.

A Strong Resume Means Both Freedom & Stability

If your boss criticizes you or passes you over for a promotion because you keep nine to five hours at a nine-to-five job, then you deserve a better job and a better boss. A great resume can give you the resilience you need to take the next step. Create both of them right now using the templates and formatting tools on MyPerfectResume.