I just started my new job last week and so far, so good. I’ve spent the week doing lots of reading, lots of software installations, and A LOT effort at staying awake. (The Starbucks is not nearly as close as I would like!)
Starting a new job is fraught with social niceties, tactical maneuvering and carefully masked awkwardness. You have to learn who to talk to if you have questions, who to avoid, and where the damned microwave is. It’s a great time to make new contacts and friends since you HAVE an excuse to introduce yourself and such, but it can also be a very rough period of transition. Here’s a few suggestions to make it a little easier on everyone:
Introduce yourself and smile
When I start a new job, I make a point of introducing myself every time I meet someone I don’t know yet. Now, I don’t mean that you should push yourself onto every person you pass in the hall! But when you sit down for lunch, introduce yourself to the people at your table. When you settle in your new office space, say hi to the people who sit in your immediate area. It can be as simple as, “Hey! I don’t think I’ve met you yet. I’m CF.” Try to be friendly and good things will happen.
Remember who those people are!
I have an absolutely dreadful time remembering names. Names tend to just blur together in my head. I tend to remember faces more than names. If it’s like that for you too, then you understand how it can make for very awkward situations. I remember running into an old classmate on my way to the dentist one day. I had a full ten minute conversation with her and never once did I remember her name.
A good way to help you remember who people are is to associate the name and the face with a tag line. For example, you might associate “Charles the Systems Administrator” or “Miranda of the Large Lunches”. For you Arts-y types, this is known as an epithet. It helps to create a mental association with that person – it’s not just a name anymore. It doesn’t have to be sensible either! Perhaps you will silently associate people with their annoying habits or their most awkward traits. Just make sure you don’t tell anyone about your unflattering list of nicknames!
Ask a question
Once you’ve introduced yourself and gotten everyone’s names straight, it’s time to dig a little deeper. Part of this is necessary for the job – you need to know who to go to for help and who you can delegate tasks to. The other part is just gravy – work is a lot more pleasant when you can while away the hours chatting to your cubicle buddy.
There are lots of ways of getting to know a semi-stranger. One of the best ways that I’ve found is to simply ask them for help. Maybe you need to know how to set up the printer on your new computer or where the nearest Starbucks is. Whatever it may be, asking a question lets people show off their knowledge and gives you the chance to figure out who your go-to person is for different tasks. Another good way to get people relaxed and talking is to announce that you’re going for coffee and see if anyone else wants to go.
Extend an olive branch
Perhaps not the most subtle method, but in my opinion, one of the most effective! In each job I’ve had, I’ve made a point of bringing some sort of treat to the office about ~2 weeks after I’ve started.
My version of an 'olive branch'
I just bake some cookies, quiche’s or some other treat and leave them in the office kitchen. Then, I send out an office-wide email inviting everyone to come have a bite. People are suckers for free food. :) And after chowing down on your hard work, many people will want to thank you or ask for your recipe. It’s a great way to spread some good will and get people to talk to the “new guy”.
Do you have any tips for getting to know people at a new job?
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