How to Fit In at a New Job
You perfected your resume, aced the interview, and landed the job you wanted. Now, you’re preparing for new beginnings, and chances are, you’re feeling a little uneasy. No matter how much you’re looking forward to starting out at a new company, you’re bound to feel unsettled for at least the first few weeks.
To shift from “lost new hire” status to the realm of the productive employee as quickly as possible, follow the steps below. They’ll not only help you integrate with your new team and adapt to a different environment, but to also ensure you’re meeting expectations and proving your worth right out of the gate.
1. Do advance preparation
Do what you can to familiarize yourself with an organization and its inner workings before you join its ranks. If you were given a company handbook or any other documentation to read on accepting the job offer, be sure to pore over these guides and take notes. If you haven’t been sent anything to review, it might be worth asking your hiring manager if they can supply you with onboarding material. Similarly, you might want to consult platforms like Glassdoor, where you’ll find company reviews, to get a feel for what makes the business tick.
Dr. Marcie LePine, associate professor at Arizona State University and member of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, argues that, ideally, preparation for fit should actually extend back to before you even start applying for jobs. “It’s important to understand if you have preferences for a specific type of company culture,” she explains.
LePine sees organizational culture broken down into four different categories based on the Competing Values Framework: clan culture, adhocracy culture, market culture and hierarchy culture. Her advice is to figure out which type of environment appeals most to you, and to then pursue jobs at organizations that align with your preferences. Acclimatization, she says, will be much easier if that match already exists.
2. Observe, observe, observe
During your first few days at a new organization, it’s easy to be so overwhelmed by all the new information coming in that you get a little lost in your own head. But if you want to adjust quickly to a new work culture, you need to be extremely observant and tuned in to the goings-on around you.
“From day one, observe any written and unwritten ‘rules’ and pay attention to how people interact with each other,” recommends Julie Cohen, executive coach and CEO of Work. Life. Leader.
LePine offers similar advice. “It’s important to understand what your team’s implicit and explicit norms are, so that you know how to fit into that framework,” she says. As some of those norms “aren’t really spoken about or written down,” the best way to familiarize yourself with them is to simply observe.
Naturally, it’s especially important to remain very engaged throughout any type of formal company integration program. “Most organizations will have an onboarding process to help acclimate new employees to their role, the expectations for success and the organization as a whole,” says Cohen. “Pay attention, ask questions and connect with people beyond your immediate realm.”
3. Meet with each of your co-workers to gain clarity on your role
Ideally, you want to build strong professional relationships with every member of your team — it’ll make working together that much easier and more enjoyable. Taking the time to connect with each of your new colleagues individually during your first week on the job is a good way to do this. But one-on-one co-worker meetings can serve another purpose, too: They can give you a much better understanding of your place within the broader business machine.
“Remember, you’ve been hired to add value, so you need to find a way to get up to speed as quickly as possible,” stresses LePine. “Often, that requires asking pointed questions of the people around you.”
If time allows, sit with each of your colleagues and ask them what their job entails, what their current challenges are, what they enjoy about their role, and, most importantly, what you can do to support them. You want to clarify what they need from you in order to be able to do their jobs better.
It may sound obvious, but you also want to make sure that every interaction you have with your fellow team members during those early days is positive. You may feel a little out of place at the beginning, so be careful not to come across as too aggressive or defensive in an attempt to showcase your knowledge and prove your worthiness. “It’s great to add your opinions and expertise, but be sure to do this in a way that adds value, without criticizing others,” says Cohen. “You want to be an early collaborator and contributor, not an early critic and complainer.”
4. Discuss work expectations with your manager
The sooner that you have clarity on precisely what it is you’re expected to deliver in your new role, the sooner you can start to excel. If you find that there are grey areas around your duties and responsibilities, Cohen recommends that you schedule a meeting with your boss, sooner rather than later.
“In an ideal world, your manager will sit down with you soon after you arrive and clearly define work expectations, what success looks like, and how he or she wants to support and interact with you,” she says. “If that doesn’t happen early in your tenure on the job, ask for it!” In this case, Cohen suggests you approach your supervisor and say something like, “Hey boss, I want to make sure I’m doing exactly what you and the company need me to do to be successful. Can we talk so I can understand your expectations?”
LePine agrees that such a conversation is critical when you’re just starting out, and argues that if you initiate this discussion, your manager will likely see this gesture as a positive sign that you’re proactive, motivated and engaged. “Make sure that you’re not just asking, ‘What do I do now?’ but rather, ‘How might I add value?’” she adds.
5. Focus and prioritize
Be careful not to take on too much — or try to fill too many roles — in your early days at a new job in an attempt to impress. You’ll quickly burn out, and you’ll start to under-deliver on those tasks that really matter.
“Be clear on your priorities for success, and make sure that they are close to those of your manager and your team,” advises Cohen. Discussions with both your boss and your co-workers should help to give you clarity on what your key areas of focus should be.
6. Keep your chin up, and be kind to yourself
A new job is certainly not all sunshine and roses. There will be moments when you feel lost and bewildered. Try your best to maintain an upbeat attitude, even in the face of significant stress. “Part of this is mindset,” explains Cohen. “Assume a positive experience.”
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t fit in seamlessly immediately, and look after your health, too. “Make sure you take care of yourself, and get your needed rest and rejuvenation during this transition to your new job,” is Cohen’s final piece of advice for new employees. “It can be overwhelming, but it does not have to be.”