The last year has been a bit of a roller coaster for me.
I left a job I had grown comfortable in for a chance to grow at a new job in London – one that I had always dreamt of, at a publication that I’d read since I was a teenager. However, only six months into that opportunity, I realised that it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The six months were some of the most stressful of my life, not just because of the hellish commute (thanks Southern Rail) but because I never felt like I really belonged. There were times where I’d be on my lunch break when I was thinking I’d made the wrong choice, the job wasn’t what was sold to me and the culture was far from what I expected.
Needless to say, I left. I left because I couldn’t handle the uncertainty, the lack of human interaction and the constant questioning of my value. So, just last week, I began my new job in Brighton, working at a digital agency, beginning yet another new adventure.
During this period of change, I’ve often felt like the new kid in a playground – something I’ve always dreaded my entire life. Personally, I’ve always categorised myself as more of an introvert, so you can only imagine the anxiety and fear ‘starting again’ causes me *cue the violins*. Not to sound like a Moaning Myrtle, it’s also meant that I’ve learnt how to adapt.
1. Begin with small talk
No matter what your gut is telling you, take the initiative to meet people. Say hello in the kitchen when you’re making a cuppa – think of the conversation in the same way you would when you made small talk in your own family kitchen first thing in the morning. It will pay off in the end. It’s even better if someone starts to chat to you, they’ve begun the conversation, you just have to carry it on. I’ve often found it easier to chat to people in your initial team first – doing a tea round or asking them about their work history – then working your way into other teams. Having this early support network will help you get settled in a lot quicker, in an environment you won’t be so nervous of.
2. Start the team bonding early
Your co-workers over time will (hopefully) become your friends, initially they may not think about asking you out for lunch, coffee or after-work drinks but that doesn’t mean you’re not welcome. Next time they are going somewhere, invite yourself along. I know, this goes against every fibre of your body but trust me, it’s better to give this a go than sitting at your desk alone with a home-made cheese sandwich. They will not say no, plus, how else will you find out where the best cafes are and get the inside goss!?
3. Befriend someone who can help you navigate the office
Learn who the key stakeholders in the company are and their personalities – most importantly, learn how to work with them. It’s often been the case that companies I’ve worked at have their own inside jokes or cliques, ask this go-to person what they all mean so you can begin contributing, if you want to. You don’t want to get left out in the cold so early on.
Most importantly, the workplace can be full of rumours and gossip. Your mission should be to stay above the fray. Don’t get involved in any office politics, especially in the beginning. Repeating gossip will do nothing to help you make a good first impression at a new job.
4. Share your philosophy with your boss
Use initial welcome meetings as a chance to impart your initial thoughts, just as your boss will do with you. This is a simple exchange of philosophy. I’ve often found as an introvert, that these conversations are easier to have – my whole life has been spent analysing others, so it comes naturally. Think of it as being a professional people-watcher. This kind of insight can often be helpful when you begin at a new company – they may have hired you for a ‘fresh perspective’, so indulge them.
5. Set the tone with direct reports
If you have direct reports, it’s important to make a good first impression. Be friendly but set boundaries. If you begin setting expectations with your direct reports from the get-go, from communication style to office hours, then you’ve set the tone for your future interactions. It makes it a lot easier to build on your relationship from here on out. Show loyalty to your reports by focusing more — initially, at least — on sharing recognition with the team. Always give credit where credit is due to gain the trust of your coworkers.
Leverage their skills, collaborate and use their knowledge and experience to move forward and do great work as a team. And kill them with kindness, the nicer you are, the harder it is for them or any friends and colleagues to cause conflict – this has always been a big one for me. Basically, treat others as you would want to be treated – it’ll count for a lot when it comes to them repaying you in respect, trust and friendship, eventually.
6. Figure out the coffee and tea situation
Just as flatmates or family can get ‘funny’ about tea and coffee, the same rules apply in different offices. Some will do tea rounds, others will not, some will clean up after themselves, others will not. It’s good to learn these ground rules now so you don’t break them. Remember that co-worker your befriended for office politics? This person will be your go-to for this too. In fact, in my most recent job, I’ve been assigned a buddy for the first time – this has helped me adjust to my new office quicker than before. If you’re finding it hard initially, just be a sponge and watch how people do things. You’ll pick it up.
7. Start demonstrating why you earned this job
If you said you were a ‘social media wizard’ or the ‘best PR you’ve ever seen’, immediately start proving this. This is actually a lot easier for introverts, it enables some grounding – or at least that’s my own experience. I may struggle with the social aspects of a new job but at the very least, I can excel at my tasks. Don’t sit back and think the new girl has a bit of time to “settle in”, be on your game and be delivering from day one, so set up those meetings, find out your immediate deliverables and get to work.
If you’re nervous, what you can do is start a ‘self love list’ – which is what I’ve done. List one thing a day that you’ve achieved and look back at it when you’re feeling a little shaky. Keep track of all your major contributions and positive feedback – it’ll help build your confidence. When it comes to your probation or annual review, you’ll already have a list of accomplishments to brag about (in a humble way).
8. Begin with good habits
Especially since a lot of new information is coming your way, setting good habits and getting organised from the start will make your life easier. If you feel like you’ve got off on the wrong foot at another job, now is the time to rectify that. Starting a new job is a great opportunity to overcome any challenges or weaknesses from your past. For example, at both of my first jobs, I started off ‘too friendly’ which meant that departments soon took advantage of my good nature. Remember what has annoyed you in the past and use it to adapt your future.
9. Build social relationships online
Once you’re officially in your new job, update your title across your own social media platforms and also start following your new company and co-workers. As you meet new people, cement the relationships by finding them on LinkedIn. I do this typically after the first week of joining a company, so people will actually know who I am, even vaguely, and feel like they can add me to their profiles/do a bit of stalking. Use your own discretion when it comes to which social media profiles you want to add co-workers too. Personally, I stick to Twitter and LinkedIn – Facebook and Instagram are for me, my family and friends, no-one else.
Ironically, in the first week of my new job, I began adding colleagues from my old job too. It’s always wise to keep connections from your past companies as you’ll never know how they’ll benefit you in the future. That, and if they’re just genuinely lovely people, then why wouldn’t you? You’ve invested your time and they’ve invested theirs in you – it’s only polite. If you really want to, you could also ask for LinkedIn recommendations to boost your professional profile.
10. Let yourself be heard
Ask questions, learn as much as you can about the company and contribute to the conversation. You need to be visible, the more people see and hear you the sooner they will get used to seeing you around and know who to go to in the future. This is particularly important if you are planning on making any changes, so engage your team, ask lots of questions about what works and doesn’t work, and work with them to implement changes that are wanted and are supported. If it helps, take notes on all the systems and rules of your new organisation – this is exactly what I have done all week. Attend all orientation sessions and accept any training that you are offered. Nothing will get you up to speed at a new job faster.
You are fresher, more alert, less stressed, happier and perform better when you are fit and healthy. So find out where your co-workers exercise and join in, or just get out into the fresh air for a lunchtime walk. Your mind and body will thank you for it, and so will your career. My new company does yoga at lunchtimes on a Wednesday, for example, so this week I’ll be giving it a go. Wish me luck!
12. Have a positive attitude
Nothing works better to improve people’s first impression of you more than having a positive attitude. Let your enthusiasm for being part of the team and the company show through to everyone you interact with. Concentrate on radiating your excitement for this new opportunity.
13. Dress professionally until you discover otherwise
You should never underestimate the importance of dressing professionally on your first few days in a new job. People make a judgment about you within seven seconds of meeting you and the way you dress can impact this impression significantly. In the beginning, take care to dress professionally even on casual days. In the early days of a new job, you just never know when you’ll be called out to meet a ‘Head of’ or even the CEO – both of these happened in my first week. Perfectly groomed means efficient and reliable; unkempt means disorganised and therefore difficult to trust with different assignments in people’s minds. After awhile, people realise these things do not necessarily correspond, but initially, your looks and dress are your representation to them.
14. Learn co-workers’ names quickly
No one expects you to have everyone’s name down pat by the end of the first day or week but if you’re bad with names (like me), now is the time to research some memory-aid tricks you can use to help you remember your coworkers’ names. Make it a priority to learn the names of every member of your team. And if you are in a situation in which you forget a person’s name, the best solution is simply to apologise, laugh about it and ask again.
15. Use your initiative
Being a self-starter is a great way to make a strong first impression at a new job. There will always be people who need help and they will appreciate your efforts to start making an immediate impact. Many times, there may be some tasks that you can accomplish with a little guidance, which will probably free up time for someone who needs to work on more important items. Be the person who helps with these to begin with, you’ll get accustomed to ways of working, which will reduce your anxiety and you’ll create a few friends along the way.
Ultimately, remember to relax, keep your mind open, get to know your company and do your best work.
What are your top tips for starting a new job?