5 Tips to Help You Thrive as the New Kid on the Block
On a recent walk through SoHo I found myself in front of an image that had recently appeared on my Instagram feed—a mural titled 'How to Work Better' by Peter Fischli and David Weiss commissioned by the Public Art Fund. It made me stop and reflect on a question I’d been mulling over for the past few months as I’d recently started in a new position after six years at my previous PR agency: How do I effectively assimilate in a new professional environment?
Being the new person at work can bring back memories of the first day of school, when you wonder how you’ll make friends and the dreaded first lunch alone in the school cafeteria. As I looked up at the wall hovering above Houston Street, it was a helpful reminder that at the beginning of anything, it’s a good practice to focus on the basics in order to build a solid foundation and forge successful relationships. Here are five tips for not only fitting in, but thriving in a new workplace:
1. Do One Thing at a Time
When starting a new position there will be a lot of information to absorb. Accept that it will take time to learn the processes and culture of a place, as well as those of your clients, but also recognise that it’s your responsibility to create dedicated time for each at the onset. Start with the names and roles of colleagues you’ll be working with regularly, and note any personal info they share. Do the same with clients, understanding the current situation, immediate strategies, tactics and challenges, and their history with your company. In our fast-paced world, our inclination is to speed through information in an effort to quickly learn topline points, but investing your time wisely at this stage by scheduling time to study information in detail pays off in the long run.
2. Listen Intently
People want to know they are heard. It sounds so simple but at a time when we all suffer from information overload, it’s one of the most overlooked, yet valuable interpersonal qualities.
Immediately demonstrate to your colleagues, particularly direct reports, that you pay attention and value their insight. This will lead to better working relationships and getting great work from your teams. We often hear that the best leaders are the ones who offer guidance to let their people shine--this starts with great listening skills.
As you start to establish relationships, aim to make people feel like they are the only person in the room. This begins with being a great listener. Listening to colleagues and clients, repeating back to them what they’ve said and taking initiative by proactively offering a new idea will help you to establish a good rapport from the get-go.
3. Ask Questions
Never be afraid to ask questions, especially at the start of anything. If you are in a senior position, you may think you’re expected to have all the answers. Relax; you don’t need to prove that you know everything. In fact, that can have an adverse effect and give off the wrong impression. Who likes a know-it-all? Conversely, asking questions shows you are engaged and interested. It also indicates that you are open to learning new ways of doing things.
4. Distinguish Sense from Nonsense
When entering a new work environment you’re going to encounter a lot of personalities and interpersonal dynamics. Even the best work environments have some office politics and their own intrinsic culture, which will seem foreign at first. It’s important to first observe situations without reacting to them. What you’re experiencing may be just a product of personalities who enjoy creating and fueling office drama. I recently read that gossiping accounted for 42 percent of employees’ productivity decline at work. Rather than contribute to this, keep an open mind and don’t form judgments based on the chatter around you. In good time you’ll be able to determine if the situation needs to be addressed further.
5. Admit Mistakes
Mistakes are a part of life. Accept that you will make them, but always do your best to correct them quickly. And, most importantly, learn from them. Bringing an error to light as soon as possible not only enables you to rectify the situation sooner, it builds trust. When you own up to something, you have the opportunity to turn the negative into a positive by developing a solution, which will instantly establish your credibility and value to a new organization.
Life is complicated and stressful enough. Keep things simple, embrace your new environment with optimism, focus on the possibilities that lie ahead for you and remember to smile; it’s a surefire way to break the ice and get people to warm up to you. And, yes, even though you’re the new kid on the block, it’s okay for you to take the initiative and invite a colleague to lunch. Chances are they’ll be happy you asked!