Whether you’re entering the workforce for the first time or just making a career change, it can be challenging to be a new professional. What’s even more difficult is being new to a very tenured team – a team that has already spent years or decades creating their culture, developing common ways of doing things and building a shared understanding between members. It can feel awkward, uncomfortable and lonely.
It doesn’t have to be though. There are several things you can try as a new professional – whether you’re new to the field, to the world of work or to a team/company.
- Set realistic expectations. You cannot go into a new job and expect that everyone on the team should automatically show you respect simply based on your qualifications. This is a mistake that new leaders, particularly, make all to often.
- Invest your time in building relationships. Internal networking is so important for everyone to do but especially new professionals. Go beyond your team or department and make sure you are building relationships with other employees and departments, your customers, leaders in the organization, vendors and all other stakeholders. You never know when other opportunities in the organization will open up. If people know you, your skills/abilities and personality, they’ll be sure to reach out to you when they have an opening that’s a good fit. Respect can only be gained if people know enough about you to make that judgment call.
- Be brave, share your ideas. Holding back for fear of rejection may be counter-productive. Don’t shove your ideas down your coworkers’ throats but be sure to offer them up for discussion. Often times, people are shy when they first start a job but if you don’t share your ideas, you might be missing out on a great opportunity. Also, if your idea is the perfect solution and you don’t share it, you could be hurting your team.
- Exemplify a “can-do” attitude. This can be a breath of fresh air for teams that have been stuck in a negative, non-collaborative and disengaged culture for a long time. If there’s something that they feel has been impossible to do, you should see if there’s a way. Be creative.
- Avoid the drama. It’s stressful enough to be the new one and to have to learn the culture, processes and assignments that exist at an organization. Don’t get involved in its baggage too. Stay positive and avoid anything that insists on bringing you or others down.
- If you’re going to suck up, suck up to everyone. You should treat everyone kindly and with respect, not just your boss. If you only do good things when your boss is around, your coworkers will get annoyed pretty quickly.
- Be a helpful team member. When your team members are struggling, have a lot on their plate or just need a hand, make sure to offer your assistance. Show that you are a team player. Others will follow suit.
- Solve problems. Find out what people dislike about a current process, technology or idea and think about a way to make it better for them. You’re likely to think of things that they did not think of and vice versa. If you know of a way to make someone’s life easier or better at work, do it.
- Recognize others. You don’t need to be a formal leader to do this. People appreciate recognition no matter who it’s from. If you notice a great skill in one of your coworkers, complement them on it. If someone helps you out, make sure to show your appreciation. If your coworker accomplished a great feat, celebrate him/her.
- Know when it’s time to leave. A common mistake that many new professionals make is sticking around in a job or at an organization that they know is not a good fit. Whether it’s a lack of ethics, a lack of support or a lack of professional development, know when it’s time to leave and do it. Don’t get stuck in a job or company that you’ll hate for years to come. You don’t have to settle. I don’t mean leave after your first week of not “fitting in.” You have to use your best judgment but the point is: don’t expect that time will cure everything. If it’s time to move on, then move on.
Do you have some good pointers to add to this list? Share them in the comments section or tweet them to me @lotus_yon.