We’ve all been there. You’re new on the job and everything seems off: your clutter-free desk is not quite your home away from home; you don’t know all the inside jokes; and no one told you about Sheila in accounting (and how you shouldn’t ask about that cat thing).
Being the new kid can be challenging, but it shouldn’t be more than a momentary bump in the road.
Here are some tips on how to make friends at a new job.
Make the first move
It might be against your more reserved nature, but sometimes all it takes to make a new friend is to say hello. Sounds silly, but people starting a new job are sometimes too afraid, or too self-conscious, to say hello to their new colleagues. They close inwards when they should really reach out to those around them. Approaching people first makes it clear that you’re friendly, and gives you some early contacts for future lunch dates.
Make the conversation about them
Let’s face the facts: the entire company is going to be judging you in one way or another, so why not use conversations as a way to redirect the spotlight? Ask your new co-workers questions about how long they have worked there, what their role involves, and what team they are a part of — just make sure the questions are open-ended. This will help keep the conversation going. Most people, you’ll discover, enjoy talking about themselves, and they’ll most likely ask you questions in return.
Find things you have in common
Asking your colleagues questions does more than simply get the conversation started, it also serves as a reconnaissance mission. It’s your way to find out if you share any common interests. Does Bob in IT like the same hockey team as you? Does Erika in production have the same taste in music? Is Linda in sales a big foodie with a fish taco obsession? These are also future conversation starters, and can be the foundations of future friendships.
You can, by the way, also focus on common sources of frustration. Does the printer always jam up? Is the network slow as snail moving through peanut butter? These are topics of discussion. Just be careful to avoid sources of frustration that are actual human beings — you don’t want to get a reputation as a gossiper.
You might be itching to post to Instagram on your lunch hour, but try to resist the urge if you’re with co-workers. Be part of the conversation and be present. Isolating yourself or staring into your phone makes it seem like you don’t care about them — something that can be easily reciprocated. Make an effort to be involved, and they will likely return the favour.
Go to out-of-office events
You might find it odd that your co-workers have organized an archery tag outing (or a Saturday afternoon of axe throwing), but cast aside your prejudgments. Hanging with coworkers outside the office is the fastest way to develop lasting friendships.
Plus, alcohol is often involved at these outings, which should go a long way towards making you feel more comfortable. Just make sure not to overdo it with the cocktails (especially if you’re throwing axes). You don’t want to be known as that guy (or girl).
Ask for help
New employees often forget that they have the ultimate ice-breaker: their own ignorance. Yes, it may sound nonsensical, but the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing is an advantage; you can ask your new colleagues anything (from file-saving protocol to the location of the closest toilet) and it’s perfectly acceptable, encouraged even.
So ask your “stupid” questions, it’s a chance to talk to people and learn a few things. Just make sure that when your coworkers need help down the road (presumably for something more complex than finding a toilet), you’re ready to return the favour.
It may feel harder and harder to make friends as we get older, especially when we move to a new company, but if you keep these general ideas in mind, you should be able to get off on the right foot.
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