This should not be this hard. Wow. I know nothing. How am I going to survive as an adult?
These were essentially the thoughts I had at work when tasked with figuring out the correct postage for a package. I looked it up online, reviewed a website, looked it up again, and used the postage pricing calculator on the United States Postal Service (USPS) website (pretty nifty tool, in case you’re wondering) to get as close as I could to accurate. Then I realized that I wasn’t even sure how much a standard stamp costs. (By “standard” I mean The Forever Stamp, which we discuss below.)
In my defense it was an oddly-shaped envelope, but no wonder the older generations think us Millennials are hopeless.
If you’re a fellow Millennial, or for some other reason you missed out on learning the simple things that help you succeed in the working world, I’ve chosen four tasks you might want to brush up on.
If you’re already a master of the mundane, consider sharing with your children, or their children, or someone else’s child. Be the hero they didn’t know they needed. But, “qualified adults,” please remember this is a judgement-free zone and enjoy a good laugh on me.
- Penmanship/Cursive – I’m just going to be up front on this one—my handwriting is atrocious, cursive or no cursive. I’ve had people graciously write it off (pun intended) by saying it’s because I’m left-handed. But you try signing a card amongst all your coworkers only to realize that, comparatively, your penmanship is that of a child. You’ll wish you’d been a little more careful tracing those letters in kindergarten.
Cursive isn’t really emphasized in school anymore, and we don’t handwrite much because we work so often on computers, tablets, and phones. However, good penmanship not only makes your handwritten messages legible, but it’s more professional than chicken-scratch. So when you have to write thank you notes, address envelopes, or take notes in a meeting, they’ll be clean and easy to read – for yourself or the horror: if you have to give your notes to someone else to decipher and use.
And it seems in our MPD office that handwritten notes and cursive are almost prerequisite. Our founder Paige even makes it her personal mission to pen five notes weekly and has done this for years. She also advocates this practice with our clients as a lost art form and amazing client development and relationship building tool.
If you’re serious about improving your penmanship or learning cursive, look online for various practice sheets.
- Mailing an envelope or package –Today, bills are paid online, we can shoot someone an email instead of a letter, and online stores will ship gifts directly to the recipient. But this doesn’t mean you’ll never mail anything, so knowing this skill is still important.
- Learn how to address an envelope/package. (Again I’ve heard stories about interns who took more than six envelopes to correctly get one addressed – I kid you not, it’s part of our office lore.) The above example shows how to address an envelope to a business professional. You can also include the title of the recipient in a line underneath their name and before the company name in the address. If you are sending from your place of business, include your company name in the return address. Personal mail will have the same format minus the company information. Omit the second address line for suite or apartment information if is is not applicable.
- Purchase some Forever Stamps (which are always the value of First Class stamps no matter the time or current rate). In case you wondered, rates increased to be $0.50 on 1/21/2018. You use one Forever Stamp for a standard envelope.
- Understand that there are three different shipping services with USPS: Priority Mail Express®, Priority Mail®, and First-Class Mail®. These vary in cost and the time it takes for your package to be delivered. Learn more about each at the USPS website as well as all sorts of bells and whistles for insurance, tracking, and the like.
- And, thankfully we still have staffed post offices, so make friends with your postal clerk and get help on-site if you need.
- The following video includes helpful instructions on mailing packages, plus other useful tidbits:
- Writing a check and balancing a checkbook – Online payment apps, debit and credit cards are taking over, but I still write checks occasionally. But it is so rare that I have to double check each time to make sure I’m filling them out correctly. Now, this one I predict will eventually go away in our technology age but for now this old-school task is relevant.
Check out this article (pun not intended) providing instructions on how to fill out a check and balance your checkbook, and ways to avoid fraudulent activity. Here are some highlights from the article:
- When writing a check:
- Fill in all information
- Always use a pen
- Try to avoid writing checks payable to “Cash”
- Write the amount in words with ALL CAPITAL LETTERS
- When recording checks:
- Include in a check register the check number, date of the check, amount, and a note about the purpose.
- Use your register as a way to track checks and other debits and credits to your bank account (balancing a checkbook).
- Taxes and finances –Throughout grade school and college, we heard about taxes but unless you’re into learning that sort of thing, or you’re paying them, you may not know much about them. Even though we can hire accountants to handle this for us, it’s important to know where your money is going, why, and how.
And as a fairly recent employee in the workforce, it’s a bit jarring to see the deduction list each paystub. As a Millennial, I’d encourage you to ask your HR lead, parents, or a mentor to walk you through what all these acronyms mean and what value they have to you.
This Crash Course YouTube video is your “Taxes 101”:
Additionally, Forbes lays out for us what the different IRS tax forms mean (Tip: This video also talks about student loans and how they work with taxes):
And, here’s a link from the IRS about their different tax forms.
Now, we can’t end this topic about checks and taxes without mentioning that Millennials (heck, everyone) should start saving some of each paycheck and taking advantage of any employer matches offered. Hard to achieve on a starting salary for many of us, but the rewards mount up greatly over the years.
So, there you have it—four simple skills that go a long way in the professional world. If you’re an intern or new hire, some of these things may actually set you apart from your competition…or at the very least save you a little bit of embarrassment at the office.
For more tips on workplace skills and conduct, check out Paige’s blog giving advice to interns on how to have a successful internship.
What are other mundane tasks should we add to our repertoire?