Starting a new gig presents a different set of challenges. Not only are there concerns about learning the business, getting around campus, and driving a new route (or–gasp!–figuring out the bus schedule), but you also have to meet new people. I know lots of outgoing, friendly types who don’t have a single problem with this. But I know just as many people who are more naturally introverted or shy, and would prefer to be introduced by someone else rather than take the initiative. For these folks, making new friends at work can be a challenge.
A few months ago someone asked me about making friends at work, and I’ve been thinking about it for a while. Here are my thoughts:
1. Plan to be uncomfortable. Admit it: in order to reach your goal of meeting a few horses in the cubicle farm, you’ll have to step outside of your comfort zone. If you know it’s going to happen, and know that it has to happen eventually, you’ll be better equipped to approach the challenge head-on. As with man other self-help processes, admitting it is the first, and biggest, step. I’d even go so far as to make a plan. Tomorrow, when I first walk by that one guy’s desk in the morning, I’m going to look in and say hello if he’s there. If he’s not, I’ll try again the next day.
2. Ask for help, or to borrow something. Do you know where the supply cabinet is? What about extra printer paper? Easy questions like that are a simple way to break the ice, and you maintain control of the conversation the entire time. You can choose to say thank you and walk away after you get your response, or if you’re feeling bold you can ask about the picture on the top of the monitor. Administrative Assistants are great sources of info and, therefore, used to fielding all types of questions.
3. Smile a ton. Your new coworkers will be more likely to approach you if you wear a smile than if you’re always dour. Happy people seem like they’re more fun to know.
4. Target the nodes. Every department has one or two social nodes who seem to be the hubs of the network. That’s because they’re more inquisitive, garrulous, and eager to have a conversation. Not only are they easier to get to know, they’ll make introductions to others around you. It’s a double-bonus!
5. Be visible. It might be tempting to skip the all-department happy hour your first week because you don’t know anybody and you have a lot to do. But don’t. Attend as many events as possible, walk around the floor once or twice a week on breaks so people get used to seeing you, hang out in the break room over lunch (instead of your desk), and just generally be visible. Even if you’re not striking up conversations, it’ll help make the conversations easier later on.
Meeting new people at work can be a challenge, but lots of us have been there. With a few thoughtful tips, it’s not as hard as it seems.