Dear Lifehacker, I'm about to start a new job and I'm feeling a little anxious about it. How can I go about fitting in as "the new guy" at the office and start out on the right foot? Signed, The New GuyPhoto by St. Peter's Community News
Congrats on the new job — and we completely understand if you're both excited and anxious. Most of us have been and will continue to experience being that "new guy" (or gal) — in new jobs and as new members of teams.
It's great that you're getting prepared beforehand, since the first couple of months can really make a difference on your success and happiness in your new role. Here's some general advice for getting acclimated:
Learn the company culture. Whether you're coming in as a manager to shake things up or a staff member, one of the most important things to do is pay attention to learn the company culture and politics. Harvard Business School writes that for new leaders especially, this step requires the most preparation. Observe how others act — the hours they work, main modes of communication, lunch habits, etc. At US News & World Report, Alison Green writes that you could also just ask someone, for example, "How does lunch really work?"
In terms of dress code, look to your boss and choose similar job clothes.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. Green says:
Frankly, it's unnerving when a new employee doesn't ask questions, because this signals you're either too shy (bad-how will you get what you need?) or not paying enough attention to realise what questions you should have (really bad). However, to the extent that you're able, save up your questions and ask them in bunches. This way, you're interrupting less but still getting the information you need.
Take it slow with your co-workers at first. Listening more than answering is probably the wisest course for any new person. CNN says you should resist trying to impress your co-workers with all your great ideas or past accomplishments. Win them over by doing your job well and keep from being overly gregarious (which could make it look like you're trying too hard). Soon you should be in a better position to be your true self.
Do, however, take lunch with your co-workers (if that's the culture) and accept any offers of help.
Check in with your supervisor. We've previously mentioned this tip for starting out on the right foot: make sure you check in with your supervisor to see how you're doing. Don't wonder in silence, which could make you feel even more anxious.
You should ask your manager for the kinds of goals and tasks you should be accomplishing in your first few weeks — and then meet those to the best of your ability. One of the best ways to make a good impression is to find out what people need or what's important to the company, and then help make that happen.
Even if you feel like you're not cut out for the job, fake it 'til you make it. If you have little work experience or are in a new field, it's normal to feel stupid. But you were hired for a reason, and as Bankrate advises, be the person your employers thought they hired. "Stop feeling stupid and focus on ways you can add value even if you don't know anything." That means paying attention to the culture, asking the good questions, and getting those small accomplishments under your belt.
P.S. Have any good tips to share for being the new person on the job/team? Let's hear them in the comments.