As anyone who’s ever moved to a new town can tell you, being the new kid can be rough. You don’t know any of the inside jokes (you literally had to be there), don’t have a shared history with anyone (no, I *don’t* remember that time the power went out), don’t understand why things are the way they are (wait — you do WHAT in the case of an earthquake??), and don’t have the seniority to change anything. In short, you are an outsider, and interloper, and regardless of how welcoming the new community is, it’s bound to feel awkward at first.
Artist: Sharon Smith
The same can be said of a new job / workplace. Even when they’re thrilled to have you, even when you’re overjoyed to be there, it can take a while to get into the groove of a new place. Luckily, though, having done this a couple of times now, I have some tips and tricks to share that can help you fast-track your integration into the new group.
Tip #1: Ask
I have long been a proponent of the power of asking questions. Being a recent-hire gives you carte blanche to ask a LOT of questions, and you should take full advantage of this opportunity. You may feel like you’re bugging people, but often you’ll find that they are happy to play the expert and show off their vast insider knowledge.
And even if not, they will surely recognize the importance of making sure all your questions get answered. After all, how can you be effective until you have all the information? And you can’t expect your onboarding buddy to magically guess at everything you need and want to know. It’s your job to get the data you need!
This same rule applies to non-work-related questions. The best way to get to know people is to simply ask them about themselves and then really listen to their answers. You might find that you soon know more about your coworkers than folks who have been around much longer.
Tip #2: Say yes
Opportunities to participate and connect are all around you, from water-cooler chit-chat to after-work happy hour excursions. All you have to do is stay open to them.
Coworkers going out to lunch and ask you to join? Say yes!
See a thread on email or Slack to which you could (meaningfully, please!) contribute? Go for it!
Hear a conversation you’d like to get in on? Find an opening and add your two cents’ worth.
And if you aren’t seeing opportunities? Create some! Invite a coworker out for coffee. Sit with a new group at lunch time. Organize an after-work activity.
Just because you’re new doesn’t mean you can’t initiate!
Tip #3: Be a cheerleader
One of the best ways to integrate into a new company’s culture is to become an avid student of that culture. Learn everything you can about the company values, mission, and traditions. Then show your spirit and let your geek flag fly!
Got SWAG? Sport it.
After all, you already know one thing you have in common with everyone around you: you all work for the same awesome company!
Tip #4: You do you, baby
It may seem counter-intuitive, but one of the best ways to integrate into a new group is to be loudly, proudly, unapologetically yourself. Wearing your quirk on your sleeve gives folks an opportunity to engage with you about who *you* are: where you come from, what you’re into, what makes you unique.
For example, don’t be afraid to wear or bring in SWAG from a previous company. It’s an important part of your history, and you never know what connections others might have to that company or industry that could spark an alliance.
It’s also a great idea to decorate your desk or office sooner than later. Bring in photos of the important people in your life, items that hold meaning for you, etc.
My spirit animal
In addition to giving your coworkers insights (not to say fair warning) as to who they’re dealing with, it can make you feel more at home. Because the fact is that no matter how long you’ve worked there, your office IS your home for the majority of your waking hours. You might as well make the most of it!
Live bravely, work deliberately, and eat good chocolate.