“I love starting a new job in a new company and new environment, where I don’t know anyone!” said no one ever. Starting a new job is probably the adult version of starting school as the new kid on the block. You’re trying to figure out the social norms, where people eat lunch, the accepted level of socializing at work, who your wbb (work best friends) potential candidates are, and so on. You’re trying to learn the ropes, but you’re also being conscious of not looking like an idiot. It’s nerve-wracking, to say the least.
Some of us managed to avoid being the new kid on the block in our formative years. But as adults who work in the corporate world, eventually, we all have to start fresh somewhere and be the newbie on the team. Trust me, as someone who emigrated to this country as a 15-year-old high school sophomore and started three new jobs in past eight years, I know the feeling all too well. In the highly matrixed modern workplace, though, there are rules of thumb you need to follow not only create a successful onboarding experience but also become well liked by your teammates in the process.
Based on my own experiences starting multiple new jobs, the research in Positive Psychology, the principles taught in Designing Your Life, and a lot of active empathy, here are proven methods for how to be likeable when you are the new girl at work. I’ve broken the suggestion down into three levels. The easy level means everyone and anyone should be able to immediately put the advice into practice. These suggestions are going to sound familiar if you’ve read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. And quite honestly his principles have mostly become synonymous with common sense. Then, we move into the moderate and the difficult categories that may take more time, intel, and resources in order to perfect. Finally, I end with the most important and probably the most difficult task.
- Smile more.
Smiling is scientifically proven to make you feel happier and more positive. It’s also a form of social invitation. It’s probably one of the easiest things you can do to increase your likeability.
- Turn your face and body toward the person with whom you're speaking.
Your body language directly demonstrates your willingness and readiness to be open and receptive to your new environment. Do not hold onto a cell phone or the keyboard when you talk.
- Don’t avoid eye contact when walking down the hall.
Look people in the eye when you pass by them, and smile politely. Engage with people, even for that brief moment, with a genuinely positive attitude. Science says this is how you become more memorable.
- Shake people’s hands like you mean it.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to use a vice grip, just that you engage you shake hands with th strength and purposeand don't let go too early.
- Find an excuse to bring in donuts or sweets.
Don’t just randomly do it without an occasion, thought, because that may come off as desperate. It’s even better if it’s a group thing when everyone brings a little something. But put some thought into what you bring. If you go to Vons the morning of and picked up the first thing you saw in the bakery section or the cheapest box of sweets, it shows.
- Make your interests visible.
Are you into certain sports, movie, novels, hobbies? Someone in the office might share your interests. Post something related to that interest in your cubicle or office, because this may prompt a passerby to comment.
- Don’t gossip.
This isn’t just a new girl rule; it's more like a entire-career rule. But it’s especially damaging if you’re new.
- Remember people’s names.
No, I mean REALLY try to remember their names. If the first thing you say in a self-introduction is that you are bad at remembering names, you are creating a cop-out for yourself. The truth is, you'll probably remember your CEO's name—and if you don't, you'll apologize profusely. Yes, we try harder to remember people’s names when we need to. You should always make it a priority to remember everyones' names, though. It will go a long way.
- Pay attention to people’s interests.
Topics like sports, movies, pets, and kids will usually get people talking. If you ask, they'll get the opportunity to talk about themselves—and people love talking about themselves. It’s proven by science.
- Listen more than you talk.
Sometimes in an attempt to show that we can relate to someone else, we go into great detail about our own experiences and make the conversation about ourselves. When we do this, we’re holding captive our audience. I call it a conversation hijacker. Instead, listen to what the other person is saying before chiming in.
- Be curious, and ask questions about people’s lives, both professionally and personally.
Imagine you had to write a report on this person. What makes her different and unique? Why does she do what does? What are her beliefs and why? What does she like to read?
- Say yes to invitations to events.
You brought lunch, but coworkers invited you to go to lunch together. Say yes. You can eat your boxed lunch for dinner or lunch the next day. People like to be friends with friendly people. Whatever reason you have, don’t turn down those early invitations. They’re likely going to lead to more invitations in the future if you play your cards right.
- Don’t reference your old job too much.
Unless you really need to make a point or give contest, try to avoid always commenting on “how things were done at my last company”. The excessive mentioning of where you came from gives off the impression that you are not entirely present or ready to adapt to your new company.
- Pay attention to the company culture, and drink the Kool-Aid.
This is difficult because it requires time investment and heightened awareness. You have to have been with the company for at least a month or two to start picking up on what the accepted norms are. But once you do, get on the bandwagon. Are people really into fitness here? Get a Fitbit. Are people generally working until 6:00 pm and beyond? Don’t be the first one to leave. Are the town hall meetings at this company an unspoken requirement? Don’t be a smart ass and stay at your desk. Find the rules of the game and play the game.
This is simple: When you are new, people are more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt, and their expectations of your performance are not based on what they've seen you do yet. All of this is to say that people more or less are still waiting to form their judgment on your performance, so this is the easiest time to exceed expectations by over-delivering.
- Lend a helping hand in someone’s time of need.
With the exception of a few kinds of positions, most people in working environments will be given a ramp-up period called the onboarding process. This generally means you have more time than you have things to do. And this is the time to be strategic in finding people you can help. By being strategic, I don't mean that you should help the cleaning crew sweep the floor or help the secretary keep track of the CEO’s schedule. Identify people who hold functions that are similar to your own or are duties you'd like to perform.
- Ask someone else out for a coffee break.
This is something that I put in the difficult bucket simply because timing is everything. If you don’t find someone that you cilick with, this task is simply impossible. Genuine connection or intention to connect is the only way that this kind of interaction will be fruitful and make you a more likeable person at work. Perhaps this is more of task to gauge your likeability than one to perform if you know you're already there.
- Be present and visible.
In the beginning stages, people are looking for clues to help them mentally suss you out and scope out who you are and what you’re about. Be present and mindful about providing clues to help them form their mental image of you.
- Beware of in-office cliques, and don’t feel bad if you’re not included.
By cliques, I’m referring to people that are averse to welcoming new members. So, this doesn’t include that group of really close-knit employees of the company who are happy to have you join as the new member of their group. The exclusive and “cliquey” groups are typically comprised of people who are insecure and unaware, who need the protection and assurance of a group that is theirs and theirs alone. You don’t want to associate with people like that.
- Be patient.
This perhaps is the most difficult task on this entire list. Humans are social animals. The perception that you are isolated or even alienated from your peers is one that is tough on the psyche for most people. But the reality is that true friendship takes time to develop. And even if you’re the most likeable person on the planet, it will take people time to notice. Until then, keep smiling, keeping working hard, and keep exuding positive energy. In time, you will win people over.
Jessica is a writer, a digital marketer, social media aficionado and a lifestyle blogger at Cubicle Chic. Through her writing, Jessica aims to connect with fellow corporate 9-5ers who may be bound by an office physically but crave for much more in life. She writes blog posts about interoffice politics, how to climb the corporate ladder, how to resolve interpersonal conflicts, and how to do it all in the best outfits possible. Jessica lives in sunny San Diego with her husband and two cats, Lulu and Miles.