When you got your job offer, you probably thought to yourself: “Phew, I aced the interviews, got my job offer… I’m done! FINALLY!” Well, sorry to break it to you but the interview does NOT stop once you have been hired. That was just the preliminary interview, now it’s on to the real interview! The first few weeks of your new career will prove to be the most influential and will determine how other co-workers look at you. Your social interactions will have a large bearing on their views and your success.
As someone who has gone through this first hand, I hope that I can offer you some advice on how you can make the right steps to fit in. What are some steps you can take to ensure your success?
The cultural fit between yourself and the company will, whether you realize it or not, often times dictate whether or not you will work out. It will also have a pretty large influence on how positive your experience will be.
For example, when you get your first job one of the first things you should take note of is the lunch situation. Do people go out to lunch with each other? Do they eat in a group in the lunchroom? Or do they eat at their desks? The answer to these questions can go a long way in making you fit in.
Why? If everyone goes out to lunch together, you should make an effort to go out with them and get to know them. This might seem counter-intuitive to your frugal nature of brown bagging lunches, but it is necessary to set the tone at work. You may have to break habit and spend a few bucks just for the sole purpose of fitting in. If everyone eats together in the break room, perfect! Bring your bagged lunch and chow down with them. But don’t go making everyone else feel awkward by inviting them out to lunch with you! You risk making people feel awkward, asking people to break routine (which people usually hate to do), and alienating yet another group of people who have no interest. Doesn’t seem like a good idea, huh? And lastly, if everyone eats by themselves either at their desk, at separate tables in the break room, or out at the local sub shop, people may value their lunch as private time. Do you like when people impede on your private time? I don’t, that’s for sure.
Let me wrap it up to make it real simple for you: It may not be a great idea to invite all of your co-workers down to the pub for happy hour on your first day. But, if it is already being planned, then tagging along is crucial. Yes, even if you don’t want to.
As mentioned above, your mantra should pretty much be “Go with the flow.” That seems easy enough, right? The trouble is, going with the flow must be coupled with both a professional and personable openness.
On my first day in my first “real” job I made it a point to introduce myself to everyone. That meant more than 100 introductions, but it was important to me that everyone knew who I was and I at least briefly knew everyone’s faces. Why? Because I knew from previous jobs that I held during college that if you don’t meet everyone as soon as possible, it becomes more and more awkward to introduce yourself. I have had a few of these awkward introductions:
Me: “Hey, my name is MLR, what’s your name?”
Them: “Oh hey… uh yeah I’ve seen you around… I’m Tim.”
Me: “Cool.. uh yep… been working here about 3 months now!”
Them: “Cool… uh… like it?”
It isn’t painfully awkward. But I think it is awkward enough. Make it easier on yourself and just introduce yourself. It’s easier to say “Hey! I’ve met so many people that I don’t remember your name” than “Hey, I have worked with you for months and haven’t introduced myself!” People will notice and they will respect it.
Whereas it is important to introduce yourself and be friendly with everyone, be aware that you also need to be careful of the personal and professional boundaries. Most younger people are fine treating their workplace as part of their social network. Co-workers will all go out to happy hour and then continue drinking at their favorite bars long into the next morning. But as you get older, and further into the ranks, it is often looked at as unprofessional to hang out with your subordinates (if you are advancing the organization is getting thinner at your level… so you don’t have as many peers).
Just be careful and use your head. Gauge people’s reactions and let their cues be your guide!
Mentorship is one of the easiest ways to gain both personal and professional knowledge. About.com details the benefits of mentorship very well:
Good mentors introduce their new recruits to others within the organization and industry. They will offer support and assistance until you feel comfortable in the work setting. As time goes on, professional mentoring often becomes a two way street and offers benefits to both parties.
Some employers offer formal mentorship programs and sometimes it is an informal system. At my first job I found someone that I connected with on a personal level who was in a role that I looked at as one I could eventually advance into. Not only did he help me get to know a lot of my co-workers on a more personal level, I feel he advanced my knowledge of the industry about ten times faster than I would have learned otherwise.
I could go on for hours how much mentors can aid your career, but that is another post in itself.
For additional tips please check out my articles: How to get Ahead of the Game: Three Tips for Students and 10 Things You Must Do After College. Also, please leave your comment below.
Photo by Al Abut.
The articles are written by personal finance enthusiasts (not certified professionals) based on their personal experience. What works for them may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.
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