How to Fit In at Your New Job

Congratulations, you got the job! Now you need to devise a strategy so that you successfully fit in with your new company’s culture and work style.  The early days are a proving ground to show that you are genuinely pleased to have joined the firm and eager to become a valued team member.  How well you integrate into your new company will play a large part in how well you succeed with the company over the long term.

What follows are several strategies that will help you make a smooth transition:

Dress to Impress

One of the first things to understand is the dress code of your new employer.  To prepare for interviews you necessarily dressed conservatively since the goal was “dress to impress.” However the dress code of the company may be more informal so you want to ask about this before your start date.  The best people to ask will be members of the human resource department who you will likely have the most contact with before starting to complete required pre-employment paperwork.  The goal is to blend in as seamlessly as possible so you don’t attract any negative attention.

Learning about the job

Don’t be afraid to ask questions to clarify any areas you are unsure about. While you understandably may be hesitant to do this since you don’t want to seem unqualified, neither do you want to make too many mistakes early on. Your new supervisor will actually be glad for the questions since it indicates your interest in the job and desire to do things right.

Not only will your supervisor be a source of help, but your co-workers as well. One of the best ways to foster a team environment is to approach your peers for advice. They will appreciate having the opportunity to “show you the ropes” and being thought of as your mentor.  To avoid having to turn to these people too many times, try to approach them when you have created a group of questions, unless the situation is urgent, and be sure to write down their advice for future reference.

Be Proactive

During the first week of a new job it is likely that your supervisor will not overload you with many responsibilities to provide you with time to settle in. However, if you find that you fit into the role well, do not hesitate to pitch in and show them what you know. A word of caution: do not come across as a showoff but simply inform your supervisor or co-workers that you feel comfortable undertaking a certain task and ask if they might help you get started.

Get to know your co-workers

On your first day of a new job you will be meet many people with names and faces coming at you in quick succession. This will include your supervisor, co-workers, and employees from other departments.  It will be nearly impossible for you to remember them all but you also want to leave a great first impression.  One hint to help you remember names is to say it upon meeting each person (“Hi Jian-Guo, nice to meet you”) and try using it at least once more as you engage in conversation.  Smiling is also important as it indicates friendliness and warmth. These things sound elementary but they are essential for a seamless transition.

Figure out Office Politics

Perhaps the most sensitive aspect of any new job is with regard to office politics and the complex relationships that have developed over time. The goal is to understand where any areas of discord may be so that you can avoid them and learn how the team works together. It’s best to be an observer during the early days, keeping all comments to yourself.   Becoming directly involved this early in your career with the company will bring nothing but contempt among your new peers, especially as you are still considered a bit of an outsider who has yet to prove yourself.  Being overly opinionated will also not sit well in the eyes of your supervisor who may view you as possible rabble rouser and decide to terminate your employment with the company there and then (remember that, in most cases, the first 90 days are probationary).

Rather than asking your co-workers directly what they think of one another, take mental notes as you observe their interactions.  Where do you notice tension? Which of your co-workers appear to have formed tight bonds?  Taking note of these relationships will allow you avoid getting in the middle of any disputes and concentrate on becoming a valuable member of the team.

Understand the New Environment

The first few weeks of your job will focus on learning the basics. Once you have these down you will then want to understand the work style of supervisor and co-workers, as well as the company culture overall.  Find out how success is measured and what you will need to accomplish during your first three months of employment. This will allow you to set your own goals for performance. Always make sure you underpromise and overdeliver – this should be your mantra. Overshoot the goals set by your supervisor by a good margin. For example, if you are in sales and need to close three deals over the first three months, aim for six. Set the bar high and you will set a strong foundation for yourself.

Successfully fitting into a new job requires that you pay attention to the small details that make up your work environment. Think of your supervisor and co-workers as your customers because in a very real sense they are.  You should always think of yourself as an independent consultant, even if you are working in a larger organization. The era in which companies are families that welcome you for life is over. Whether you like it or not, you are a permanent free agent. Make sure you represent yourself well.