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Break the Ice, Don’t Shatter It: Fitting in at Your New Job or Internship

April 29, 2013

The end of the academic year is right around the quarter. You may have a job or internship lined up that will start this summer. If you’re about to enter the workforce for the first time, there’s probably a lot running through your head and some butterflies in your stomach. Thankfully, there is no shortage of good advice out there on how to excel at your new job or internship by working hard and getting noticed. This particular article will focus on another important aspect of workplace success: Understanding your environment. Here are some tips that will help you make a sparkling impression on your coworkers and avoid some rookie mistakes too.

Be Yourself

Starting a new job or internship can be rough. Maintaining that confidence that got you hired can be a challenging thing. Take comfort in the fact that you were hired because your interviewer believed that you are capable and that working with you would be enjoyable. So let your true colors shine. That being said . . .

Watch & Learn

Take some time to understand how things get done and what makes people tick. Feel out the culture of your workplace before making any rash moves. Take cues from your coworkers about what is expected. This can be something concrete, such as noticing how formally people are dressed, or something more nuanced like figuring out what kind of jokes are appropriate. A lot can be learned through simple observation.

Be Aware of Interpersonal Dynamics

You may be new, but most of your coworkers already have firmly established relationships with one another. Don’t make assumptions that you can talk to another employee in the same manner that someone else does. Remember what I mentioned earlier about figuring out what jokes are appropriate? Teasing between superiors who have known each other for years might be acceptable, but chiding from an intern could be seen as disrespectful. Pay attention to these important interpersonal dynamics when deciding how to interact.

Know When to Apologize

You might make a mistake. You might offend someone or cross a line. At times like these, apologize. Fitting in with a new group of people is always a learning process, whether you’re in an office or not. Showing this consideration and courage will go a long way towards building the kind of relationships you are hoping to foster at work.

Find a Friend

Sidling up next to someone who understands the company culture can be helpful, if you have developed an appropriate level of trust. When you befriend someone in the office, consider asking for advice about how to navigate situations with other coworkers. Always frame these conversations in terms of learning how to work with people more effectively, rather than suggesting that anyone is difficult in any way. Never gossip and remember to maintain your professionalism at all times.

Ultimately, success will come at your job or internship if you can relax and enjoy yourself, and try to learn as much as you can. Whoever hired you had good reason to do so, and they see potential in you. Your coworkers generally want you to succeed and will understand when you don’t know something yet. Remember that you’re just getting started as a young professional, and most people will be understanding of the fact that you’re new and still figuring things out. After all, everyone’s been there at some time or another.

And if all else fails, just remember to be polite and smile!

Cat Saunders is a UCSB alum who works as a Vocational Counselor in the Santa Barbara area. She can be found at www.catsaunders.com.

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