Can we all just agree that starting a new job is the absolute worst?
It’s a necessary evil – I mean it’s physically impossible to get a new gig without the subsequent ‘very first day at your new gig’ – but damn, I wish we could just invent some sort of time travelling portal that will allow us to skip right through what is essentially the grown up version of the first day of school.
There is not a lot worse than going into reception and having to announce that ‘no, you’re not here to see anyone, you’re starting work today’, and wait awkwardly while someone comes down to collect you. And then all that time (usually in the first fortnight) where you don’t actually have any work to do, but everyone else does, and your induction is technically done, so you just try and act real busy by reading the entire intranet and familiarising yourself with the travel policy for 3 hours. You’re all nodding along with me right now, aren’t you? We’ve all been there.
The start of the year was time for me to revisit the awkwardness of being a newb – starting a new gig that I was super excited about, but not so excited about getting out of my comfort zone and leaving the familiar crew behind.
Once you get to a certain point in your career, you can kind of jump right into the work part (and if I’m being real, I kind of feel like I hit the ground running week one, and all of a sudden I have a legit to-do list), but it’s the making new friends part that sometimes take a bit longer. I mean, who will you eat lunch with?!?
So, in the interests of making sure all of us have a table to sit at in the cafeteria, let me present to you dear ladies and gents, some tried and tested tricks to meeting new folk, assimilating smoothly and generally putting your best foot forward in a brand new gig.
You know nothing, Jon Snow
Ohmigod, this is the bloody hardest, isn’t it? You’ve got a brand new rad job that you’re super excited about and you’ve researched it and you know exactly where you can add value and make changes and you definitely know exactly where you are going to start the minute you walk in the door!
Hashtag Hold Your Effing Horses Very Right Now.
For serial. It’s so hard to not be that over-enthusiastic person – but if you don’t bite your tongue just that little bit, you wont be the ‘amazing new girl brimming with ideas and so helpful!’ that you had envisioned – you’ll be that massive pain in the ass with all the bloody opinions.
It’s a fine line between reaffirming why you were hired in the first place and being annoying, so tread it carefully. Be willing to learn, and ask questions – and remember that your skills are only as good as your business and culture knowledge – so understand the landscape before you start building your biz brand. (Kind of like the office version of ‘Dial before you dig’.) And if you really, truly have a great idea or see an untapped opportunity, repeat after me – thou shalt only ask questions, never give answers. Feel free to hide a few gems in the ‘have we ever tried…?‘ or ‘in the past have you considered…?‘ but just leave your mad skills there for everyone to be subtly impressed by, don’t push the point or start a debate and DEFINITELY don’t hijack a half way completed project because suddenly you’re here with ‘new skillz’.
Besides, you have the rest of forever to build your new work empire. Beyonce wasn’t built in a day.
If an envelope opens, attend
I know, right – this kind of ‘I’m going to all the things’ enthusiasm is generally included on the list of ways to commit social suicide, but I’m here to tell you that when it comes to a new gig, this shalt be your motto.
I’m a ‘UGE fan of getting involved from the outset. If there’s work drinks, go. If there’s a team basketball team – either join up (obvs sports skills permitting) or pop along and cheer from the stands. If they need someone to wear a daggy promo t-shirt and man the stand at a weekend event, be volunteer numero uno.
There is (and I just DARE science to prove me wrong) no better way to make new friends and learn about this fancy pants new business you’re in than to get involved in every damn thing on offer. In my first few months, I’ve made smoothies, lugged boxes, attended a gala ball, bonded with some folk outside of my team over a shared love of pinot noir and found out that one of the girls in the training team is an auh-mazing yoga instructor. None of the above can be done from behind my laptop and I know 376% more people than I would if my M.O. was to just matriculate within the marketing crew. And the thing is – you don’t even need to over commit. Just stay for one drink, make a point of talking to three people that you don’t know and then move on to your other evening plans (so, Netflix in your track pants with that no-name label of wine the real estate agency dropped off because they want to sell your house).
Milkshakes will bring boys (and girls) to your yard
Homer Simpson may have been onto something when he boldly declared that you can’t make friends with salad, but there’s another ‘s’ word that will work like nobody’s business and that is ‘snacks’. You can and absolutely should make friends with snacks.
There’s truth in the fact that the most popular person in the office around 3pm is the person with sugar, and our addition to the white stuff (sugar, not that, sheesh…) is something that you should definitely use to your advantage. (The only thing that will attract more folk to your desk is a dog. I can speak to personal experience with both.)
You don’t need to go over the top here. Keep some treats at your desk and offer them out when people stop past. I know it kinda sounds like you’re bribing your way into making people like you (and let’s be real, you sort of are…), but it’s a most excellent ice breaker, and when you’ve got 38,926 new people in your face for 40 hours a week, you need something that’s not ‘how’s this weather?!’ (#snore)
If you’re a little weirded out by being the office vending machine, then start small. Keep a box of mints on your desk and watch how many people will ask if they can have one and then feel obligated to at least ask you about your weekend while they help themselves to your candy – and hey presto…new friend. (Then feel free to admit I was right, I promise not to be a dick about accepting your apology.)
Steer into the skid
Trust me. You’d much rather have people laughing with you than at you, behind your back, and referring to you as the ‘weird new girl’. (Which, let’s be honest, is a tad better than ‘weird old girl’, but still, not great…)
I still remember this horror story told to me by a previous manager. Way back when, as a 20-something newbie starting her ‘real person career’, she discovered AT THE END OF THE DAY that she had smeared berries on the butt of her white jeans. She traced the berries back to lunchtime, meaning that she had spent at least five hours being that girl with the weird stains on her pants. Shoot. Me. Dead. How do you recover from that???
Sometimes, the only thing you can do is laugh. Or steer into the skid (to give it a little bit o’ colour) – the very simple and often overlooked skill of making an awkward situation a little less so by giving everyone else permission to laugh at you. Disclaimer: it does only work for minor things – for example and because we’re friends I’ll tell you this – I spilled tea all over the meeting room table the first time I met our agency. I had been in my new job for exactly three days.
In that moment – things could only go one of two ways: either I prolong the awkward by trying to mop it up and avoiding eye contact while wishing the floor would swallow me whole and nobody really knows what to say or do, OR, embrace it, have a laugh and acknowledge what everyone’s already thinking. Which is what I did, declaring that ‘on the bright side – you’re definitely not going to forget meeting me!‘ and yes, it was not my finest hour, but everyone laughed, the mood relaxed, and now it’s an ongoing joke and they will always ask me if I’d like my tea in a cup or on the table during our WIPs. #crisisadverted
Let’s be real – a brand new job is just 40 hours a week of testing the boundaries of your awkwardness as a human being until you settle in, and packing your sense of humour is essential. Not just for your sanity, but so that your brand new colleagues know that the new girl in marketing is kinda cool. (Oh boy, I really hope they think I’m cool…)
However, none of the above applies for serious f*&k ups – if you vomit at team drinks on day five, you are on your own, sweet cheeks. (True story, it happened to a friend of a friend.)
Image via Death to Stockphoto